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Coalition Clarifies What CPA Said in Al Arabiya Interview

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2004 – The Coalition Provisional Authority clarified today what CPA administrator Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III said in a Feb. 20 interview on Al Arabiya satellite TV.

The interviewer had asked Bremer about "the problems and the factors" on holding direct elections before the long-stated June 30 date for Iraqi sovereignty. "The most important problems," Bremer responded during the interview, "are technical ones, as the United Nations specialists pointed out when they were (in Baghdad) last week.

"Iraq has no election law, it has no electoral commission to even establish a law," Bremer continued. "It has no law governing political parties; it has no voters' lists; it has not had a credible, reliable census in almost 20 years.

"There are no constituent boundaries to decide where elections that would take place," Bremer said, according to coalition-released transcript excerpts. "These technical problems will take time to fix -- the U.N. estimates somewhere between a year and 15 months. It might be that it could be sped up a little bit. But there are real important technical problems why elections are not possible, as (U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan) announced yesterday."

Dan Senor, senior coalition spokesman, pointed out in a Baghdad briefing today that there are ranges of estimates "coming from multiple independent organizations, and we expect one to come from the U.N. as well" to be factored in. But Bremer himself, Senor emphasized, "has not articulated what he thinks the timeframe should be."

It is clear to Iraqis the importance of handing sovereignty over to a legitimate and credible government June 30, Senor noted. He said Iraqis do not want a government chosen in haste, in a disorganized fashion and in an environment without proper electoral mechanisms in place to ensure every eligible Iraqi can vote.

Senor said that the CPA recognizes that Iraqis want sovereignty soon, and that is why the June 30 deadline is important. But, he added, they also want a credible government, which is why they also understand the CPA position.

The senior coalition spokesman also told reporters that the provisional authority is still on track to meet the Feb. 28 deadline for a finalized transitional administrative law, or what he called Iraq's first bill of rights. He noted that the Iraqi Governing Council is working quite ambitiously on this effort, recognizing the looming deadline.

"And by all indication that they've made to us, they will meet the deadline," he said. "They've made it clear that's they're making a lot of progress, we are in discussion with them, they are moving forward, and they believe that on Feb. 28 they will have a transitional administrative law finalized."

In a Feb. 19 Baghdad news conference, Bremer spoke about the vital importance of "transitional administrative law that protects fundamental rights and provides a stable political structure."

"Under that law," Bremer said, "Iraqis will enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the freedom of religious belief and practice. All Iraqis will stand equally before the law, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of religion and regardless of gender. Iraq will be a single country with one currency, one foreign policy, one army, one police force and one national border. These are the core values and precepts of the coalition countries, and they will be embedded in the transitional administrative law."

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