Iraq Report: January 23, 2004

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw discussed the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq in his address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on 21 January, RFE/RL reported. Straw told the forum that the Iraqi Governing Council “is the most representative Iraqi administration which Iraq has ever seen.” He added that the council “embodies the diversity and complexity of Iraqi society and there is a political pluralism within the Governing Council which is wider than exists in many countries in the region as a whole.” Straw praised UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for agreeing to consider sending a team to Iraq to assess the possibility of national direct elections.

The foreign secretary also praised Iraqis for beginning a political debate on their future. “Iraqis are coming to terms with a real political debate, choosing between a host of rival sources of information — satellite dishes, which were illegal under Saddam, more than 200 newspapers, unrestricted access to the Internet,” he said. “A dynamic Iraqi press corps is emerging, with journalists gaining experience and confidence in their reporting, and Iraq already has a more vibrant and a freer press than many of its neighbors.” Straw said that Britain and the “whole international community” remains committed to assisting Iraq in its move toward a democratic government. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told Al-Jazeera television in an interview broadcast on 16 January that his country is committed to helping in the rebuilding of Iraq. “France has a viewpoint that is grounded on solid bases. This stand draws its strength from international law, respect for nations, and tolerance. We want to offer assistance [to Iraq] within the framework…of the international community.” Villepin said that his country has been “recruited” to assist Iraq. Villepin reiterated earlier calls for an international conference to be held on Iraq, saying: “We believe that a conference will allow a series of major projects like economic development, security aspects, and humanitarian exchanges. ” (Kathleen Ridolfo)

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