28 April 2004
Majority of Iraqis Want New Caretaker Government Led by Prime Minister, Special Adviser Says in Briefing to Security Council
Warns of Dramatic, Long-lasting Consequences of Bloody Confrontation In Absence of Peaceful Resolution of Standoffs in Fallujah, Najaf, Karbala
NEW YORK, 27 April (UN Headquarters) -- Lakhdar Brahimi, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, told the Security Council this afternoon that the majority of Iraqis with whom he had spoken favoured a new caretaker government to be led by a very qualified Prime Minister, a president serving as head of State with the assistance of two vice-presidents.
Briefing the Council on consultations he had held in Iraq and suggesting a political process for the way ahead, he said that such a caretaker government should seek the advice of representatives from all parts of Iraqi society. Many Iraqis had suggested the convening of a national conference to engage in a genuine national dialogue on challenges facing the country. That conference should be convened not by the United Nations, but by an Iraqi preparatory committee, comprising a small number of reputable and distinguished Iraqis who were not seeking political office.
As the Committee would need one or two months to consult widely around the country, he said, July would be the earliest time to convene a national conference, comprising 1,000 to 1,500 people representing every province, political parties, unions, womens and youth organizations and religious leaders.
He pointed out, however, that the security situation in Iraq remained extremely worrying and that an atmosphere of great tension and anxiety persisted owing to the siege of Fallujah, the Mahdi Army uprising in the south, and a general increase in violence. There was now major fighting taking place in Fallujah, and reports today of attacks from and on a mosque were a source of shock and dismay. The Coalition Provisional Authority was well aware that unless the stand-off was resolved peacefully, there was great risk of a very bloody confrontation, the consequences of which could be dramatic and long-lasting. The same was true of the situation in Najaf and Karbala, he added.
On 17 March, the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority had requested the assistance of the United Nations in forming an interim Iraqi Government, to which sovereignty would be transferred on 30 June. They had also sought United Nations help in preparing for direct elections, to be held before the end of January 2005.
Briefing by Special Adviser
Mr. Brahimi reported that he had visited Iraq from 4 to 15 April and, prior to that, had held consultations with many heads of State and government, ministers for foreign affairs and the Secretary-General. Concurrent with his visit, Carina Perelli, Director of the Electoral Assistance Division in the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, had been leading an electoral mission to the country.
Noting that the security situation in Iraq remained extremely worrying, he said an atmosphere of great tension and anxiety persisted in the face of the siege of Fallujah, the Mahdi Army uprising in the south, and a general increase in violence up and down the country. There was major fighting now taking place in Fallujah, so that his current remarks had already been overtaken by events. Reports today of attacks from and on a mosque were a source of shock and dismay.
He said the Coalition Provisional Authority was well aware of the fact that, unless the stand-off was brought to a resolution through peaceful means, there was great risk of a very bloody confrontation. The Authority also knew that the consequences of such bloodshed could be dramatic and long-lasting. The same was true of the situation in Najaf and Karbala. The nature of those dynamics, together with the general insecurity prevailing in the country, had certainly had an impact on his visit, as it had prevented him from meeting a number of important religious, political and tribal figures.
However, he said his team had been able to meet with a large number of Iraqis from across society. We are humbled by the many Iraqis who faced the perils of travel in todays Iraq and even inside Baghdad, in order to meet with us. And we are profoundly sorry that we failed, because of security constraints, to meet some of them, he said. A key question was whether a credible political process was even viable under such circumstance.
He said that the formation of an administration to assume responsibility as of 30 June was part of a much broader political process. Such a process had to be seen against the background of the realities that made it necessary: war and occupation and, before that, a very harsh and brutal regime and crippling sanctions. However, there was no alternative but to find a way to make the process viable and credible. Security was essential for the process to be completed and a viable political process was a powerful contributing factor to security.
Hence, the importance of a credible Iraqi Government to be in place and lead the way in the completion of the next phase of the political process, he said, adding, In the end, the solution of Iraqs problems will have to come from the Iraqis themselves. Virtually every Iraqi who had met the team had urged that there be no delay in ending the occupation by 30 June at the latest. The majority of Iraqis with whom the team had spoken favoured a new caretaker government, comprising honest and technically qualified persons. There had been near-unanimity that such a government should be led by a very qualified prime minister. A president should serve as head of State, in addition to two vice-presidents.
The caretaker government, by definition, must be short-lived, as its sole purpose would be to attend to the countrys day-to-day administration until a democratically elected government could be put in place, he said. The caretaker government needed to be mindful of the fact that it had not been democratically elected, and should, therefore, refrain from entering into long-term commitments. It should also seek the advice of representatives of all parts of Iraqi society. To that end, a consultative assembly or council should be established.
Ideally, the Iraqi people should select that Government, he said. There were honest and qualified people in every singly political party, and in every regional, ethnic and religious group, and it should, therefore, not be difficult to identify a list of extremely well qualified candidates -- men and women -- who were representative of Iraqs diversity. The United Nations could certainly help the Iraqi people in that process. In preparation, clear understandings should be reached on the nature of the relationship between the sovereign caretaker government, the former occupying Powers and any foreign forces remaining in the country after 30 June, in addition to what assistance, if any, might be required from the United Nations.
He said many Iraqis had suggested that the United Nations convene a national conference to engage in a genuine national dialogue on the countrys challenges. While such a conference would be extremely worthwhile, it should be convened not by the United Nations or any other external body, but by an Iraqi preparatory committee, comprising a small number of reputable and distinguished Iraqis who were not seeking political office. The United Nations was ready to facilitate consensus among Iraqis on a suitable slate of names for such a body.
The Committee would need at least one to two months to consult widely around the country, he said. July would be the earliest time to convene the national conference, which would bring together 1,000 to 1,500 people representing every province in the country, all political parties, tribal chiefs, trade and professional unions, universities, womens groups, youth organizations, writers and artists, as well as religious leaders. The conference would, to begin with, allow a wide and representative sample of Iraqi society to discuss their painful past, as well as the future of their country, a discussion that had not taken place over the last three decades. They would also talk about the forthcoming elections and discuss further those aspects of the Transitional Administrative Law that were still the subject of much debate and misunderstanding.
In that connection, he welcomed the clarification by Paul Bremer, Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator, who had stressed that the Interim Government would not have the power to do anything which could not be undone by the elected government which takes power early next year. The fact was that the Transitional Administrative Law was not a constitution at all, and could not tie the hands of any national assembly to be elected in January 2005. The conference would appoint a consultative council, available to provide advice to the government. That council would conduct plenary debates to convey the preoccupations of the people to the government.
He said the convening of the national conference might ultimately constitute an important step towards national reconciliation. The question of what national reconciliation would entail must be addressed by the preparatory committee. However, no one inside or outside Iraq was thinking of bringing back the old regime or any of its leaders. Nor was national reconciliation a euphemism for impunity.
Regarding Mr. Bremers recent public remarks about adjustments to the de-Baathification policy, he said that if, as a result, thousands of teachers would be able to go back to work, and if thousands more would begin to receive their pensions, that would be an important step towards the kind of reconciliation people were presently discussing in Iraq. Such steps might well have a positive effect on the security situation.
He expressed the hope that the next phase of consultations would help consolidate consensus around the ideas he had outlined. Once broad support for the framework was evident, he would proceed to help facilitate an Iraqi consensus on the actual composition of a caretaker government, as well as of a preparatory committee for the national conference. Hopefully, all of that could be completed before the end of May. There was much to do and time was short. There would be potentially dangerous pitfalls and massive obstacles at every step. But the job is doable, as long as we set principled but realistic targets, moving towards them with deliberate steps. We will need, in particular, the Security Council to be united behind us and with us.
The meeting, during which the Secretary-General was present, started at 3:39 p.m. and adjourned at 4:12 p.m.
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