New York, Asharq Al-Awsat- Ashraf Qazi, the new UN envoy to the secretary general in Iraq, has commented on the role played by the international organization in persuading the interim Iraqi National Assembly to drop its previous decision to amend the elections law on the eve of a referendum over the constitution. Qazi says that the decision stemmed from "the great importance attached to guaranteeing fairness and credibility of the referendum."
In statements made to Asharq Al-Awsat, Qazi underlined the UN”s responsibility to support the referendum "despite the Iraqi National Assembly being an independent body." He expressed his appreciation to the Assembly for "taking our reservations into consideration and canceling the proposed amendments." He described this move as a "positive development." The special representative of the UN secretary general in Iraq underlined the importance that the UN gives to efforts that seek to make the political process in Iraq as inclusive and credible as possible. At the same time, he affirmed the UN”s consideration not to undermine the sovereign right of the Iraqi people to exercise their democratic rights, whether they accept or reject the proposed draft constitution. Qazi said, "All we want is to guarantee the credibility of this process for the Iraqis in Iraq and for the international community." He noted that the United Nations "encouraged national dialogue in Iraq," affirming that, "Iraq”s future is in its unity."
Qazi denied that the UN worked to guarantee the cancellation of the National Assembly”s decision upon request from Washington. He confirmed that, "the United States and other states have their views, but our responsibilities lie in the UN Charter." He pointed to the mandate issued by the UN General Assembly and the principles that govern the work of the organization. Qazi added that the laws that relate to the referendum over the draft Iraqi constitution "must be in line with agreed international criteria."
Qazi considered the recent developments and the central role played by the UN in persuading the National Assembly to retract its amendments to the referendum, as an indicator of the wider role that the UN might play in the future. He expected that the UN would be increasingly turned to in order to strengthen national dialogue and reconciliation in Iraq. In this context, Qazi affirmed that he is constantly in contact with all Iraqi groups with their different political, ethnic, and religious affiliations, adding that he frequently meets with parties that are interested in pursuing their goals in a peaceful manner. He further added that his presence in the Green Zone does not prevent him from talking to all actors of the Iraqi political scene, noting that the UN deals with and opens its doors to all Iraqi leaders except the rebels.
Qazi admitted that the upcoming stage will witness great difficulties and challenges but expected that "Iraqis will overcome all these hardships because they enjoy a high level of determination and flexibility, and fully realize the important opportunity that is open to them to achieve their aspirations." He added that, "the process is not an easy one and required the understanding of Iraq”s neighbors."
Qazi said that it is very difficult to predict the outcome of the referendum, especially in light of the referendum laws. He pointed out that the UN”s role supporting the process does not permit it to predict the outcome of the referendum or even to comment on it before the voting process is concluded. He added that the international organization "offers technical support to this process with a view of facilitating it and leaves the political issues relating to the elections law to the Iraqis themselves."
Qazi said the United Nations participated in printing the draft constitution, allocating $2.5 million for the printing and distribution of four million copies of the constitution in Arabic and one million copies in Kurdish.
Concerning the relationship between the UN and US in Iraq, Qazi affirmed that he enjoys a good connection with the US Ambassador in Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, "even though our views over some issues differ sometimes." Qazi said, "The role of the United Nations in Iraq is primarily humanitarian while the United States has its own strategic interests in the region." He stressed that the United Nations "does not only help in the political process but in the humanitarian one as well."