UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Interview with vice-president of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaffari
BAGHDAD, 2 March 2005 (IRIN) - Ibrahim al-Jaffari, interim vice-president of Iraq, and the man tipped to be the country's next prime minister, said the priorities for the country now are security, reconstruction and the future of Fallujah among others.
Jaffari was part of the Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance group, which took some 48 percent of the vote in the 30 January poll to elect a 275-member transitional assembly. The alliance has been allocated 140 seats.
In an interview with IRIN in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the high-ranking politician spoke about the need for aid agencies in the country, the importance of security for them and for the Iraqi people in order to build a strong and prosperous country.
QUESTION: What are the priorities for Iraq today?
ANSWER: Security is the main priority in Iraq. It's really a challenge for us because security is affecting citizens’ lives. Insecurity affects the image of the government and gives an impression of weakness. After this you have the public services like water and power, as well as the economy, and [tackling] these issues has been delayed as a result of insecurity.
Q: How will you increase security in the country?
A: The first step is to end any leaks [of information] in security which are responsible for the mess. We don't want the treatment to be superficial [in dealing with this problem], it should deal with the root causes. These leaks are the main reasons for this poor security and [addressing this] is going to be our first step. [The leaking of information comes from] people from the last regime who are helping insurgents in the country, and people who came from outside the country to work as insurgents.
Some unemployed people, due to the poor economic situation, have gone to the resistance as a way of getting money for their families. These people have been brain-washed with the culture that killing and blood are the solutions.
We should also solve the problems with neighbouring countries by not letting foreign [insurgents] pass through our borders without authorisation and have control of the country’s borders.
Q: Many Fallujah city residents are still camped outside the city, living in very poor conditions and reconstruction in the town is slow. How is the government going to help those families?
A: Fallujah, Najaf [in the south] and other cities that were almost completely destroyed due to insurgency require special management. Reconstruction and compensation for the things lost are the main issues because it wasn't our aim to destroy the city, but we intended to remove the insurgents who entered the city and used it as their base. We don't have anything against the people of the cities, its residents, streets, buildings or schools. Now the priorities are to compensate the people and bring back the smiles and shine to the city with the blessing of God.
Q: Kirkuk has been another point of conflict recently with reports of huge Arab displacement from the city as Kurds return. How are you dealing with this?
A: A very important strategy should be used with regards to Kirkuk and it will be one of the main issues for the new national assembly. Kirkuk is a very sensitive case due to its ethnic and religious diversity and we will ensure that the city is part of Iraq for all Iraqis.
Q: How long do you want Coalition troops to stay in the country?
A: The presence of Coalition troops in the country depends on the security situation in Iraq. It is true that it is not the case that you can feel strong because you have foreign forces in your country, [as] it indicates that we have problems and the country is weak and cannot protect itself. It gives a bad impression but we cannot protect ourselves and we cannot ask them to leave since even with their presence we are still having problems and a challenge with the terrorists. If they leave the situation could really get worse, so we will ask them at the right time to leave the country. As we build a good force to protect the country, it will decrease step by step our need for them until we can create our own defences.
Q: What are the reconstruction priorities?
A: Iraq is a country suffering from many years of war and sanctions as well as destruction of government buildings. The economy and security were totally destroyed. Iraq has sources of money, it's a rich country, especially because of its oil. We have capacity to rebuild it again so we believe that it's a good chance to reactivate the reconstruction process in all areas.
Iraq from its origin was a civilised country but due to the problems that the country is going through now this social level has decreased. We wish to use all the experience of Iraqis for reconstruction and we will ask foreign countries to invest with Iraqis and help in reconstruction.
Q: There are reports that Shari'at law will be part of the new constitution and women in Iraq are afraid it will decrease their rights after all these years. How will you proceed on this issue?
A: We won't make the new constitution based only on the Quran [the Islamic holy book]. It is true that the majority of Iraqis are Muslims, but we will try to take many constitutions from around the world and use them as references for us to bring the best for Iraqi people. Women will have their rights and if there are women with competency and specialisations to take high places in the government, it will be a pleasure for us.
Q: With ongoing kidnappings and other security issues, nearly all international NGOs and aid agencies have left the country. How are you going to encourage them to return?
A: First of all, again the security issue. We will offer them protection and guards and help them with any difficulties in their way, so they will be able to offer their services to the country. We need them and for this reason we will do anything to help and give them the opportunity to help us and help Iraq. In partnership with the NGOs we will get through this critical situation in our country and with God’s blessing we will take away all the barriers in their way.
Q: How has the withdrawal of the UN affected development?
A: I can say that it really affected us, especially on the humanitarian front. The death of Sergio Vieira de Mello [UNs Special Representative for Iraq], who was a very close and special friend of mine, broke an important step of the UN inside the country and I told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Sergio Vieira de Mello came to Iraq to stay forever and truly he stayed forever. I'm sure the UN will be back and we will see good days.
Q: What do you think lies in the future for Iraq?
A: I think that Iraq was waiting for a new birth and it got it on the 30 January of this year. Iraq took its first step in building its future, not only politically, but socially. The curve has started to increase with democracy spreading in the country and it is the first step for our democratic future in Iraq. The next step will be with less wrongs and a higher participation from the Iraqi people, as many of those who didn't participate in the first election will participate in the next one after the increase in security in the country. For this reason I see Iraq's future full with brightness and happiness.
Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Economy, (IRIN) Education, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs
This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|