Monday, March 01, 2010

Iraq: International community urged to support the internal political process

UN - The top United Nations envoy to Iraq today urged the international community to support the internal political process taking shape in the strife-torn country ahead of next week's parliamentary elections and allow Iraq to “normalize” on its own terms.

“I am acutely aware that despite all the talk on how to 'normalize' Iraq, our international prescriptions of 'normalization might not be what Iraqis are seeking,” said Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

“Iraqis have a vivid sense of international interference over their long history,” added Mr. Melkert, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). “To break with the past, we must transform international involvement from interference into engagement.”

As a first step to advancing this effort, Mr. Melkert called on foreign politicians, diplomats, think tanks and journalists working on Iraqi issues to give the political process leading to parliamentary elections on 7 March the credit it deserves.

He underscored the commitment shown by a large majority of Iraqi citizens and lawmakers in organizing the Council of Representatives elections to conform to standards acceptable to the Iraqi people and its constitution.

“Hurdles have been overcome, including voting in Kirkuk, and Iraqis abroad having gotten their say,” said Mr. Melkert. “The constitutional requirement that allegiance to the Baath spirit precludes holding public office has been a more difficult hurdle.”

In addition, about 6,000 candidates and a significant number of alternative coalitions and parties are likely to compete for the votes in the upcoming poll, he said, noting that until five years ago the people had no say in their governance.

Mr. Melkert also pointed to the controversial matter of sharing oil revenue, which he insisted must not be influenced by outside agendas, but he said that the international community could play a role in facilitating agreements for the resolution of the issue and supporting security arrangements.

“It is vital for Arabs and Kurds to agree on the future of their relations within the federal state of Iraq, including the sharing of oil revenue and the delineation of territorial and administrative responsibilities,” he said. “The objective of international engagement should be to back up Iraqi actions, not prescribe outcomes on this front.”

Highlighting positive developments in the country, Mr. Melkert said that serious efforts are underway to improve governance oil production contracts provide solid potential for revenue management Iraqi forces - despite disturbing lapses - are making progress in taking control of domestic security political debate is vibrant the media is diverse, and an election law has been agreed.

“Security threats are real, including the targeting of political candidates and election organizers, but it is unlikely that such risks could derail the process,” he said, adding that

wrangling over the exclusion of candidates with ties to Saddam Hussein or the Baathists is concerning but inevitable as Iraq transitions from dictatorship to a new politics.

“Letting the people of Iraq make their own decisions requires a change of mind and habit of many regional and international stakeholders. All stand to gain if we take the right course.”

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