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Iraq: Voting Changes Important

Iraq: Annan Calls Reversal Of 'Patently Inappropriate' Voting Changes Important

New York, Oct 5 2005

Criticizing changes that the Iraqi Parliament made on Sunday to rules for this month's constitutional referendum as "patently inappropriate," Secretary-General Kofi Annan called today's reversal of the decision "very important," but said the transition process in the war-torn country has not "worked as we had hoped."

Under the interim constitution, the referendum will come into force if half the votes cast nationwide are in favour, but go down in defeat if two thirds of the votes in three of the war-torn country's 18 regions are against it. Sunday's action raised the bar in the latter clause to mean two thirds of all registered voters, not just those voting, while leaving the nationwide stipulation as it was.

"I think is it is very important that the Iraqi Parliament reversed itself, because that decision was patently inappropriate and we made that clear to them," Mr. Annan said in a press encounter at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The UN has been providing technical and planning support to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq and yesterday the Director of the UN Electoral Assistance Division, Carina Perelli, said preparations for the referendum on 15 October were largely complete. Early indications on how the vote will proceed from a technical point of view are positive, she added in Baghdad.

Mr. Annan voiced the hope that the Iraqis will find a process of reconciling and maintaining a united and peaceful Iraq.

"We support an all-inclusive process and we had hoped that this electoral process and the transition arrangements would pull the Iraqis together. It has not worked as we had hoped, but we still urge the parties to work together and I believe the reversal by the Parliament of the decision last night would help the process."

He was asked today if he had any plans to give the UN a higher profile in Iraq. "I think we are very active in Iraq, we are as active as we can be and I think we played a very effective role in the elections, in the constitutional process," he replied.

"We are working with them on the referendum and eventually, for the elections in December. And I think those are important contributions by the UN. I don't think we can do any more at this stage, because of the security environment," he added.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, Mr. Annan's envoy, Ashraf Qazi, noted that the referendum will be presented to the people of Iraq during Ramadan. He emphasized the need for all Iraqis to participate in the referendum in order to express their democratic choice to accept or reject the text, and called on all parties to ensure that the political process is "credible, fair and inclusive."

In a statement on the occasion of the holy month, Mr. Qazi also expressed hope that with the start of Ramadan, "the process of political dialogue, reconciliation and compromise would gather strength and deliver the Iraqi people from the killings, violence and prevailing insecurity."


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