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26 February 2004

Iraq Needs U.S. Involvement to Build Democracy, Minister Says

Only woman in cabinet meets with U.S. Labor Secretary Chao

Iraq needs the involvement of the United States to help it build democracy, says the only woman in Iraq's cabinet.

In a February 24 meeting in Washington with U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Nasreen Mustafa Sadiq Barwari, Iraqi minister for municipalities and public work, said "we cannot build a democracy without you [the United States]."

Following the meeting, Minister Barwari said her ministry has been focusing on increasing employment and building infrastructure to deliver services to the Iraqi people, according to a February 25 U.S. Labor Department press release.

Secretary Chao, who recently returned from a visit to Iraq, said women's talents "should be tapped in the rebuilding of a new Iraq."

Following is the text of Labor's press release:

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U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao Meets with Iraqi Minister for Municipalities and Public Works

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao yesterday met with the Iraqi Minister for Municipalities and Public Works Mrs. Nasreen Mustafa Sadiq Barwari, who is in the United States to meet with government and private officials involved in the rebuilding of Iraq.

During their visit Secretary Chao and Minister Barwari discussed the Secretary's recent trip to Iraq, the mission and building of the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works and the role of women in a democratic Iraq.

"Having just returned from the Middle East, it is of particular relevance for me to meet the emerging female leadership within Iraq," said Secretary Elaine L. Chao. "One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to a Women's Rights and Democracy Center in Hillah, where I met Iraqi women who were eager to participate in the building of a free and democratic Iraq. Women comprise a large part of the population and their talents should be tapped in the rebuilding of a new Iraq."

Minister Barwari is the only woman in the Iraqi Cabinet and is the former Minister of Reconstruction and Development for the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. She was a member of the economy and infrastructure working group, part of the U.S. Department of State's Future of Iraq Project. Following the 1991 war in Kuwait, she worked with the International Organization for Migration to assist in the repatriation of refugees; she also worked with the United Nations' (UN) Department of Humanitarian Affairs to coordinate relief services with other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. She holds a BA in architectural engineering from the University of Baghdad and an MA in public policy and management from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

During the meeting, Minister Barwari stated, "We cannot build a democracy without you [the United States]." Barwari has been focused on both building the infrastructure needs of Iraq and improving the delivery of services to the Iraqi people. She is also focused on increasing employment through much-needed infrastructure projects. Under the previous regime, public works service delivery was under the Ministry of Interior, which covered all internal security arrangements. Providing critical public services was secondary to keeping a hold on power.

For more information on the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works visit

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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