August 26, 2008

Iraqi PM Addresses Tribal Conference in Baghdad, Praises Fighting Volunteers

[Speech by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to the First National Conference of Bani Lab tribal chiefs and notables held at the Al-Rashid Hotel, Baghdad; broadcast carried as speech is in progress - live.]

Al-Iraqiyah Television at 1205 gmt on 25 August 2008 interrupts its regular newscast to carry live a speech by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a the First National Conference of the Bani-Lam Tribe in Baghdad. The live broadcast begins with Al-Maliki's speech in progress.

Al-Maliki talks about the Iraqis' toughness when calamities occur, and says the greater the calamity the stronger the Iraqis' will and determination become. He says tribal conferences, support councils, and fighting volunteers are positive phenomena that strengthen Iraqis, adding that the Iraqi people need a leadership that interacts with them and respects them, thus ending that "dark period of discrimination" between the leader and his people, for a leadership without masses is like masses without a leader.

Al-Maliki says no leader is now being imposed on the people by force, or through "a conspiring party," but the political process is conducted "openly." He says the era of "hidden cards and secret protocols" and the era of hoodwinking and ignoring the people has gone, for everything must be done openly and transparently, and thus there will be mutual trust between the leaders and the masses. Al- Maliki says he hopes no one will be entrusted with leadership unless he is equal to the task and that "he will be completely subject to the State of law and institutions and will not rebel against them." He refers to the Ba'th Party's "rotten literature" about liberty and unity, and about the poor and the oppressed, but "the reality was chemical weapons in Kurdistan and mass graves in the south."

Al-Maliki refers to the "prisons and executions" and the "wars and adventures" of the past, and says Iraq's wealth was squandered and Iraqis were killed in reckless wars." He adds: "Perhaps we were negligent in not opposing that gang from the beginning, and we will be negligent today if we do not make the right choice and if we do not say 'yes' or 'no' at the appropriate time so that those black days will not return," or "we will once again be taken by surprise by those who infiltrate to the leadership of this people and to responsible positions -and I am not talking about the principal position alone, because today we have democracy. I am talking about all the positions: the provincial council, the governor, the minister, the prime minister, the president, and every official."

Al-Maliki refers to corrupt officials in State departments who manipulate public funds and "the remnants" of the Ba'th regime who abort the people's hopes and aspirations by halting and hampering the political process, the services, reconstruction, and the economy. He talks about the misdeeds of the Ba'th regime which he says transgressed against every section of the population. He says that page in Iraq's history must end and it will end only through the kind of awareness he perceived in the speeches and poems that were delivered which will be translated in practical stands "so that every one of us -the clan, the party, the institution, and civil society -will contribute to building, reconstruction, and protection." He quotes the saying that "love of one's homeland is part of one's faith," adding that he who does not love his homeland and does not make sacrifices for it is not a believer. Citing a Koranic verse enjoining people to help one another to piety and doing what is good, Al-Maliki says it is piety and doing what is good to love the homeland and to defend its independence and sovereignty and to safeguard the safety of the people and work for their prosperity, to fight destructive ideas, extremism, sectarianism, racism, and the culture of killing, and to rebuild Iraq, and to protect the values of justice and equality and the rule of law.

Al-Maliki says Iraqis are now looking for job opportunities in "poor states that used to need Iraqi support," adding: "Congratulations to those states that have benefited from Iraqi capabilities and prospered, but regrettably, Iraq did not benefit from its sons. That is a natural result because the ruler is [was] corrupt and because the party monopolized power, and because abolishing the other, marginalization, gagging the people, and the expropriation of liberties prevailed." He says Iraq had trained scientists "who are now in the universities of London, Arab states, and various European states, but Iraq did not benefit from them." Al- Maliki continues to criticize the former regime, and asks: How can the honest person be creative and productive in a country in which values have become muddled, even tribal values of which we are proud?

Al-Maliki stresses the need to safeguard the State of institutions, and says the country should not be run by one individual, or one leader, minister, or one central government, for in the new political system there should be a strong central government and also strong provincial governments capable of acting and providing services. He says when they talk about government support they should not mean only the ministries but should also talk about local and provincial governments, and when ministers are criticized, governors, directors, and officials should also be criticized. He says in the past there was an iron-fisted central government that gave no powers to the provinces, while today the will of the governorates and provincial councils and the governors has been revived, and therefore "we should call each other to account."

Within the context of the need to help one another to piety and doing what is good, Al-Maliki talks about a just and strong judiciary where the judge does not hear threats from militias, terrorists, a political party, or an influential sect. Continuing the theme of the same Koranic verse which also says "do not help one another to sin and aggression," Al-Maliki says defending a "bitter experience in Iraq's history" is a transgression, polishing the image of the corrupt among officials of the former regime is transgression, the attempt to clone the past experience is transgression, and relinquishing Iraq's sovereignty and unity is transgression. He says the tribes are capable of dealing with the concepts of piety, doing good, and transgression, adding that transgression also involves the spreading of corruption or promoting those who spread destructive ideas, or those "who want to clone the experiences of failure because they used to benefit from them at the time."

Al-Maliki says that thanks to the will of the national unity government and the determination with which they triumphed over terror it was possible to stop the slide towards civil war "for which some ignorant people or those who echoed the will of external agendas had applauded." He says civil war was not stopped by military force but by wisdom in dealing with others and cooperation and everyone's efforts, and by the national reconciliation towards which some people initially took a negative stand. He says there is need for such conferences like the present conference which involves uniting the tribe so that it will be a solid pillar in building the state of law and institutions, adding: "I wager on your awareness, patriotism, and history which can serve as a basis for building Iraq."

Al-Maliki then says: "Today we are at the threshold of a new stage, the stage of Iraq's final removal from international resolutions and sanctions and from its being placed under Chapter VII [of UN Charter], because Iraq, as a result of its adventures - as the United Nations used to say -used to threaten international peace and security and peace in the region." He says if Iraq's wars and adventures justified sanctions and placing it under Chapter VII, "we say openly that leaf has been closed, and Iraq today" no longer threatens any state. He says Iraq is now entitled to ask the states of the world to end Iraq's status under Chapter VII by end of 2008 because there is no longer justification for international sanctions against Iraq.

Al-Maliki continues: "Negotiations and contacts over security agreements are being held. You hear about them, and I also hear a great deal of media reporting that does not reflect the truth and reality - it is distortion and falsification. No treaty or agreement can be concluded except on the basis of complete sovereignty, full respect, national interests, and on the basis that no foreign soldier will remain on Iraqi territory, with a fixed -not open - time period. Yes, there is great progress in the negotiations over the security agreement which provides for obligations: some of which are in defence of Iraq, some are to remove Iraq from Chapter VII, and others are related to our future aspirations. However, some of its clauses are still the subject of consideration, and unless they are changed it will be difficult for this agreement to pass. The immunity that is granted: we cannot abandon our sons by granting any open immunity to any person whoever he may be, be he Iraqi or foreign. The sanctity of Iraqi blood must be safeguarded. An open ceiling is prohibited in a security agreement for the continued presence of an international force. An agreement has been achieved - actually agreement has been achieved between the two sides on a specific date, namely the end of 2011, when any foreign presence on Iraqi territory will end.

"There has also been agreement that there shall be no military operations without the approval of and agreement between the Iraqi government and the forces that are present, the US forces.

"There are other matters that are still being discussed, regarding the entry and exit, the mail, and the headquarters and camps in which they [US forces] are present. There has been progress on many aspects, and there are issues that are still being discussed. However, the principle on which we stand is that we shall disclose very clearly, transparently, and frankly every letter that is written in that agreement. We shall disclose to the people, the House of Representatives, and the government everything we agreed upon or have not agreed upon -because we may not agree on some issues which we believe are fundamental, and the other side also deems fundamental for it. Then we will say everything clearly and frankly to constitutional institutions because today we have a democratic and parliamentary system that must approve and ratify every agreement Iraq concludes with the world. The agreement has no secret appendices as some people are claiming. It does not say the defence and interior ministries shall remain under the control of the US forces. It does include many of the things which some political rivals say. I call on all politicians to shun such a language, the language of rivalry, disputing, and the search for illusory loopholes -about which they talk in the media and which they exaggerate." He says the national interest should be administered with patience and a free national will "so that we can wrest more rights. It should not be that each of us looks for a false loophole here and a false loophole there, and then engage in slander in the media. And when the truth is revealed it transpires that the person is electioneering or engaging in propaganda to assert his presence."

Al-Maliki adds: "We do not want to talk about those voices which speak as though an agreement has actually been signed, while the agreement is still being discussed and contains matters that are still complicated. That is not a national responsibility. It is not part of piety and doing good, but it is sin and transgression to claim something that does not exist, or depict it in a bad way when it is different. National interest should be above the desire to assert an electioneering presence."

Al-Maliki says: "There will not be an agreement unless you all know about it, and you will have the say through your representatives in parliament." He says since they believe in this democratic method there is no need for outbidding and for matters to be hidden from the people and the media.

Al-Maliki says he pins great hopes on such conferences. He says Iraq is not out of danger yet, and it still needs the efforts of its sons, forbearance, and patience. He says many Iraqis have fallen so that there will be a free and democratic Iraq that is its own master. Al-Maliki concludes: "Today we are close to regaining our full freedom, will, and independence, so let us cooperate and deal with trust and a joint responsibility." He emphasizes the need for unity and cohesion.

Originally published by Al-Iraqiyah TV, Baghdad, in Arabic 1205 25 Aug 08.

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