18 April 2004
Violent Minorities Will Not Thwart Iraq's Future, Bremer Says
Administrator pledges coalition help to build secure, sovereign Iraq
Iraq's "future of hope" will not be derailed by the acts of violent minorities, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Administrator Paul Bremer promised April 18.
Noting that groups like the Republican Guard, the Mukhabarat, the Fedayeen Saddam and the so-called Mahdi Army "are trying to stop the process that leads to elections," Bremer vowed such groups "will be dealt with in a manner that reduces the loss of innocent blood to the minimum possible," according to a statement released by the CPA.
The ambassador said that the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), written by the Iraqi Interim Governing Council, lays the foundation for building a country based on the principles of democracy and individual liberties.
"The Law guarantees a broad range of individual freedoms: the freedom of speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; the freedom of the press. And it provides for an Iraq governed by the rule of law under an independent judiciary. The Transitional Administrative Law recognizes Islam as the official religion of Iraq, but provides protection for the religious beliefs and practices of all. Finally, the law provides for constitution to be written by elected representatives and presented to the Iraqi people for ratification," Bremer said.
Bremer went on to list of number of challenges raised to the TAL, and issued specific rebuttals:
-- Regarding assertions that the TAL gives too much power to an unelected government, he noted the unelected interim government would be in power for only seven months and would not have the authority to enter into treaties or undertake other long-term commitments;
-- On the objection that provisions permitting two-thirds majorities of any three provinces to reject the draft permanent constitution is intended to prevent Iraq from adopting a permanent constitution, he explained that adopting a constitution to which a super-majority of any of the three provinces objected would not create a unified Iraq; and
-- In response to concerns that the continued presence of coalition forces is proof the TAL "is bad," Bremer said "the past two weeks show that Iraq still faces security threats and needs outside help to deal with them." He added that "it is clear that Iraqi forces will not be able, on their own, to deal with these threats by June 30 when an Iraqi government assumes sovereignty."
Bremer also noted that United Nations teams would soon return to Iraq to consult on establishing both a caretaker government and the elected government that will replace it. In addition, U.N. Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi is considering "convening a national conference of prominent Iraqi citizens" in July to elect an advisory council that would assist the new government, Bremer said.
"This now is the way forward," Bremer concluded, urging cooperation between the Iraqi people and the coalition in restoring Iraqi security and in working under the TAL framework "to build a sovereign Iraqi that is secure, democratic, and free."
Following is the text of Bremer's statement:
L. Paul Bremer, III
Coalition Provisional Authority
Transitional Administrative Law
18 April 2004
Iraq has a future of hope. It is a future of freedom of religious belief and practice, a future of elections, a future of constitutional democracy and a future of the nation's riches equitably shared among all Iraq's people.
But Iraq's democratic future is challenged by violent minorities. Groups old and new such as the Republican Guard, the Mukhabarat, the Fedayeen Saddam and the so-called Mahdi Army are trying to stop the process that leads to elections, to a government that respects the rights of all. They want to shoot their way to power.
They must be dealt with. And they will be dealt with in a manner that reduces the loss of innocent blood to the minimum possible.
They will be dealt with because security is an indispensable element of progress in Iraq, indeed, security is an indispensable element of civilization.
Security is primarily the responsibility of the Coalition. But security is also the responsibility of the Iraqi people. Whether by direct enlistment in the security forces or through the sharing of information with security forces, almost all Iraqi families can to the security and progress of their country.
The forces of darkness hope to obstruct the path to Iraqi sovereignty, elections and democracy. The vast majority of Iraqis want a peaceful, democratic Iraq. The path to that Iraq has been well-defined.
The Transitional Administrative Law is the path to Iraq's future of hope. The Law is proof that Iraqis not only want, but are prepared to construct a country based on the principles of individual liberty and democracy.
The Transitional Administrative Law was written by the Governing Council-- two members of which, Dr. Seyyid Muhammed Bahr al-Uloom and Dr. Mowaffak al Rubaie, are here with us today-- a diverse group of Iraqis whose interests were as broad as this Land between the Two Rivers. Yet they found a way to reconcile all their interests, to compromise. And in compromise we find the heart of tranquility, of democracy of human respect and dignity for every person.
The Transitional Administrative Law provides for a seven-month interim government, four national elections, and an elected transitional government with plenary powers.
The Law guarantees a broad range of individual freedoms: the freedom of speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; the freedom of the press. And it provides for an Iraq governed by the rule of law under an independent judiciary. The Transitional Administrative Law recognizes Islam as the official religion of Iraq, but provides protection for the religious beliefs and practices of all. Finally, the law provides for constitution to be written by elected representatives and presented to the Iraqi people for ratification.
Some have challenged the Transitional Administrative Law. They have raised objections based on imperfect understanding. This has created misconceptions about the Transitional Administrative Law.
One misconception is that the Transitional Administrative Law gives too much power to an unelected government.
This is false because the unelected interim government, which will be in power for only seven-months, is intended to look after the ordinary, day-to-day affairs of government. That government will not have the authority to negotiate treaties or to undertake long-term, binding commitments. The interim government will not have the power to do anything which cannot be undone by the elected government which takes power early next year.
Another objection to the law is that the provisions permitting two-thirds majorities of any three governates to reject the draft permanent constitution is a trick by the occupiers to keep Iraq from having a permanent constitution.
This too is false. Iraqi unity requires a constitution that all of Iraq's communities can support. It is a fundamental principle of democracy that the constitution should provide for majority rule but also protect minority rights. Preparing a constitution which is objectionable to an overwhelming majority of the citizens of any three provinces would prevent a unified Iraq. This provision of the Law will ensure that all groups work hard to agree before the constitution is submitted for a national referendum.
A final misconception is that permitting the continued presence of Coalition Forces proves the Law is bad.
Events of the past two weeks show that Iraq still faces security threats and needs outside help to deal with them. Early this month the foes of democracy overran Iraqi police stations and seized public buildings in several parts of the country. Iraqi forces were unable to stop them.
If former members of the Republican Guards, the mukharabbat, the Fedayeen Saddam and the Moqtada's militia are to be prevented from shooting their way into power, Iraq's security forces must have help until they are fully equipped and trained. This is what the Coalition intends to do.
But it is clear that Iraqi forces will not be able, on their own, to deal with these threats by June 30 when an Iraqi government assumes sovereignty. Instead, Iraq and troops from many countries, including the United States will be partners in providing the security Iraqis need.
Nor is it true that the Transitional Administrative Law somehow ties the hands of the government to be elected next year. That National Assembly will have the freedom to write a constitution Iraqis support starting in February.
The Transitional Administrative Law is the path for the people of Iraq. It leads to a future of hope, a future of democracy and a future of freedom and dignity.
In the coming weeks, the United Nations will return to Iraq to finish its process of consultations with Iraqis about how to implement that future. UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the Coalition, the Governing Council and the Iraqi people will establish an Iraqi caretaker government capable of administering the ordinary affairs of the country in the short period before elections in January. This government will consist of a President, two Deputy Presidents, and a Cabinet of honest, distinguished, and capable Iraqis.
Ambassador Brahimi is also considering convening a national conference of prominent Iraqi citizens to be held in July. The conference would elect an Advisory Council to provide guidance and wisdom to the new government. At the same time, United Nations elections experts will work with Iraqis to ensure that full, fair, and free national elections are well prepared.
This now is the way forward. First, we must all work together to restore security to Iraq. This is a job for the Iraqi people as well as the Coalition. Then, working under the framework set out in the Transitional Administrative Law, Iraqis, the United Nations, and their Coalition allies will together build a sovereign Iraqi that is secure, democratic, and free.
Mabruk al Iraq al Jadeed.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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