Iraq conference calls for full voting

An international conference on the political future of Iraq has opened in Egypt with calls for the interim Iraqi government to make sure as many people as possible take part in January elections.

    The meeting hosted by Egypt has assembled 20 foreign ministers

    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Ghait told the opening session in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh on Tuesday that Iraq's salvation lay in making the election successful and ensuring that all reasonable forces take part.

    "A consensus will not come about except by expanding the scope of dialogue between national forces, bridging the gap which divides the various parties and rejecting the politics of violence and intimidation," he said.

    Aljazeera's Hussain Abd al-Ghani reported that the Egyptian foreign minister was determined to mention the necessity of withdrawing US-led forces from Iraq before December 2005.

    He said Abu al-Ghait was trying to avoid leaving the issue to the interim government.

    The foreign minister was also determined to present the international community's worries over the non-participation of many Iraqi groups in the conference, especially the Sunnis.

    UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the conference: "As we approach the elections, every effort must be made to provide incentives for the various Iraqi groups to participate in a national reconciliation process."

    The conference brings together about 20 foreign ministers, some from the countries that invaded Iraq last year and others from governments that opposed the invasion.

    Election boycott

    They say their aim is to help restore internal peace and security in Iraq, where Iraqi fighters are waging war on the government and the US and other troops that keep it in power.

    A statement prepared in advance advises the interim government to call a meeting of as many political groups as possible before the elections to encourage full participation.

    Some Arab Sunni groups have threatened to boycott them because they oppose the US military presence and see the interim government as an American puppet.

    "We are determined to make a success of the general

    elections. They must be held across the country, in all

    fairness and be open to all those components of Iraqi society

    which accept the rules of democracy"

    Michel Barnier,
    French Foreign Minister

    French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, one of the

    countries that most strongly opposed the invasion, said all

    Iraqis had to "feel a sense of ownership".

    "We are determined to make a success of the general

    elections. They must be held across the country, in all

    fairness and be open to all those components of Iraqi society

    which accept the rules of democracy," he added.

    In weeks of negotiations over the final statement, France

    failed to persuade the United States, Britain and the Iraqi interim

    government to accept a firm date for a troop withdrawal.

    The text as it stands merely repeats the language of a UN

    resolution which, in effect, allows a future Iraqi government to

    invite US and British forces to stay indefinitely.

    French initiative

    Barnier returned to the theme on Tuesday, saying that for

    the sake of peace, Iraqis must know that the troops will go.

    He said the UN resolution, passed by the Security Council

    in June, means the mandate for the troops ends on 31 December 2005

    .

    Iran's foreign minister called on
    foreign troops to pull out of Iraq

    "Hostility towards foreign troops leads many Iraqis to

    distance themselves from the process. It is therefore vital to

    recall this deadline and state clearly that Iraqis will have

    full mastery over their country's affairs, including over

    security and military issues," Barnier said.

    But he also struck a conciliatory tone towards the US

    and Britain, represented at the conference by Secretary

    of State Colin Powell and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

    "We all know what positions our different countries held in

    the period that led to the current situation developing. But

    today we must turn to the future. France and Europe, are ready

    to do so," he said.

    Another dispute was over whether unofficial Iraqis,

    including opponents of the government, could take part in the

    conference.

    France said they should but Baghdad successfully

    blocked the French initiative.

    Scepticism

    Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Clerics in Baghdad, which

    controls hundreds of Sunni mosques in Iraq, has said

    the body had no confidence in the conference

    because it had ignored the French demands.

    "It has digressed from its most important announced goals,"

    the spokesman said on Tuesday

    .

    "The main target of the United States and the Iraqi government in this conference is to add more legitimacy to the US occupation of Iraq and earn an external legitimacy for the Iraqi government which lacks an internal one"

    Dhafir al-Ani,
    Iraqi political analyst

    And

    Dhafir al-Ani, an Iraqi political analyst based in Doha, told Aljazeera that there was a clash

    of political wills at the conference.

    "The main target of the United States and the Iraqi government in this conference is to add more legitimacy to the US occupation of Iraq and earn an external legitimacy for the Iraqi government which lacks an internal one," he said.

     

     

    "

    Many forces in Iraq have agreed that these elections cannot be held appropriately under the current unstable situation in the country.

     

    "T

    he elections law itself does not give fair and equal chances for all parties. How can we join the ideas of occupation and democracy together?"

     

    Bombing and silencing

     

    Ani's views were echoed by Abd al-Amir Alwan, a London-based Iraqi political activist who was interviewed by Aljazeera.

     

    "The vital question to be asked is whether the conference was held to get Iraq out of its catastrophe, to get the US from its catastrophe or to relieve some regional and international groups from their responsibilities and commitments from what is happening in Iraq," he said.

     

    As for the elections, Alwan said: "All Iraqis are longing for real democratic elections, carried out in a free atmosphere and away from the domination of the occupation and militias.

     

    "But the main problem is that the Americans and the Iraqi interim government, which has adopted the American plan, want elections to be carried out despite all that is happening in Iraq," he said.

     

    "The Iraqi interim government wants to carry out elections by bombing cities and silencing national voices which think that elections will be conducted without international supervision."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Zimbabwe military's statement after seizing power

    Zimbabwe military's statement after seizing power

    Major General SB Moyo addresses the nation after Zimbabwe's military seizes state TV, blocks off government offices.

    The Muslims of South Korea

    The Muslims of South Korea

    The number of Muslims in South Korea is estimated to be around 100,000, including foreigners.

    Aamir Khan: The Snake Charmer

    Aamir Khan: The Snake Charmer

    Can Aamir Khan create lasting change in Indian society or is he just another Bollywood star playing the role of a hero?