Europaparlamentet

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister defends "nascent democracy"

Pressmeddelande   •   Nov 22, 2006 09:42 CET

Dr Barham Salih, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, delivered a fairly optimistic account of the current situation in Iraq to Members of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee today. He described Iraq as a nascent democracy that is experiencing severe growing pains, but that also has an elected Parliament, a committed government and a willingness to reform its institutions.

"The situation is nowhere as bad as the international media seem to indicate," Mr Salih said. Responding to a question by Sir Robert Atkins (EPP-ED, UK) as to whether Iraq was currently in a state of civil war, Mr Salih replied: "Whether we define it as a civil war or not is irrelevant...the level of violence is not sustainable, that's the key." Nevertheless, he held out hope that things were improving. In particular, he mentioned that 7-8 provinces will see their security guaranteed entirely by Iraqi security forces by the end of this year.

On the political front, Jaromir Kohlíček (GUE/NGL, CZ) noted the recent increase in Iraqi support for religious political parties, and wondered whether this was compatible with democratisation. Mr Salih argued that it was the failure of a secular elite that has led the region into chaos and conflict under Saddam Hussein's rule, and that "the idea that there was stability under Hussein is false: it was just that the dead were not reported on by the Western media, but rather buried in mass graves in silence." He supported bringing mainstream currents of religions into the political system, in order to combat the more extremist factions.

Iraq's difficult neighbourhood

Geoffrey van Orden, (EPP-ED, UK) was curious about the recent resumption of diplomatic ties between Iraq and Syria, while Tunne Kelam (EPP-ED, ET) asked about the impact of Iran on Iraqi stability. Mr Salih answered that he hoped for "serious cooperation on preventing hostile elements from using Syrian territory to destabilise the situation in Iraq," and said that his government "has to ensure it doesn't become a political football between Iran and the USA." He agreed that the question of democratising Iraq could not be viewed outside the general context of the Middle East, yet he said that "Iraq is a victim, not a cause of regional problems."

Europe's contribution

"Are you satisfied with the EU contribution to the democratisation process in Iraq?" asked José Ignacio Salafranca (EPP-ED, ES). Mr Salih said he was very grateful for all the aid received, but that he still hoped for more support from the Union. "We are seeking European engagement...you are our neighbours," he said. In particular, he suggested further debt relief for his country (80% has already been forgiven by EU Member States). He also emphasised the need for longer-term investment. "Don't just look at us as a humanitarian disaster relief project, but rather as a possible investment opportunity," he asked.



Committee on Foreign Affairs
In the Chair : Geoffrey Van Orden (EPP-ED, UK)


Ref.: 20061120IPR00045
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