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American Forces Press Service

Voter Education Key For Iraqi Elections, U.N. Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2004 - Iraqi citizens who will vote in January's elections will need to be educated about the new system, a senior United Nations official said in Baghdad today.

The "most important thing in an election," observed U.N. election expert Carina Perelli, is "to make sure that the voters and the citizens know exactly what . they are voting for" and how the electoral process works.

Some other requirements for Iraqi elections, Perelli noted, involve establishing voter lists and training 70,000 to 130,000 poll workers. Legislative changes necessary to hold Iraqi elections in January, she noted, need to be concluded by the end of May.

Perelli, chief of the U.N.'s electoral assistance division, arrived in Iraq with her group on March 26. Her group, she said, has been holding discussions with Coalition Provisional Authority officials, Iraqi Governing Council members and Iraqis outside the government - including religious leaders - to solicit opinions and input for election planning.

She noted that an Iraqi electoral committee has been formed - from which an Iraqi electoral commission will be established - for election planning and preparations.

The Iraqi elections, U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said April 14 at a Baghdad news conference, "are the most important milestone" in Iraq's march toward sovereignty.

Brahimi and other U.N. specialists, including Perelli, are in Iraq to assist in the stand-up of Iraq's sovereign government after the June 30 transfer of power from the CPA.

CPA administrator Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III praised the U.N.'s Iraq contingent in an April 14 statement. "We are grateful to (U.N.) Secretary- General (Kofi) Annan, Mr. Brahimi, and all the U.N. personnel here for their highly constructive contribution."

Bremer's statement emphasized the importance of the U.N. role in the process. "We hope that the U.N. will continue to use its expertise to play a vital role in advising Iraq as it moves forward with its political transition," he said. "This is an important step on Iraq's path to sovereignty on June 30 and first direct elections early next year."


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