Mouwafak al-Rubii Interview

MARK DAVIS: Mouwafak al-Rubii, welcome to Dateline.

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There was great hope that this UN report would break an impasse between the Americans and Ayatollah Sistani, how has the UN report been received in Baghdad?

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL: Well, the UN fell short of specifying a definite date. What we need, we need a definite date, which is cast in stone so that nobody will move that date for general election. See, people here are longing and very eager to go to the ballot boxes to cast their votes. They’ve been denied this right for more than 50 years now and they can’t wait to go to the ballot boxes to choose and to elect their candidates.

MARK DAVIS: Well, I guess the date is the critical question. The UN has suggested it would be possible to have an election by January of next year if security is assured. I guess that’s a big if, but what dates seem feasible to you?

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: Well, see, we keep on hearing ifs and buts and maybe. This is no good for the Iraqi people. The other point which is very important, is who is going to be handed over this sovereignty of Iraq from 30 June of this year until January next year? It has to be a caretaker government. It has to be a government with a specified, limited responsibilities and authorities. A government which the main task of is to organise election and should not be given the authority to change laws and bylaws and to change the regulations of this country.

MARK DAVIS: Well, presumably that authority, if we’re listening to the Americans, is the Iraqi Governing Council. Is that the appropriate body to you and does it have enough credibility to lead the country in this interim period?

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: Well, the credibility is very relative concern and it’s a very good representation. It’s a good inclusiveness as well and there’s a transparency in there. It gives the continuity as well. Handing over the sovereignty to the governing council, it will give the continuity.

MARK DAVIS: But when you ask who should be governing the country in the interim, I’m assuming you’re saying that rhetorically. You know who it will be it will be the council, won’t it?

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: Well, there are people who are talking about expanding the council or reducing the council. The danger in this is that if you open this gate, it’s going to be a flood. What are the criteria for choosing a new candidate, what are the criteria of this electing old candidates. There are all sorts of who’s going to agree or disagree on this candidate. Is it the troika of the United Nations Governing Council and the coalition professional authority, or is it something else. There are so many new players in the game now. Grand Ayatollah Sistani is an important factor.

MARK DAVIS: Have you spoken to the Grand Ayatollah Sistani since this report came out?

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: Yes, I have and I think what we need to do, to have here, is a guarantee which ensures the – that the date of the election for January 2005 has to be guaranteed by a United Nations Security Council resolution, so that Iraq will not be forgotten after the United Nations – sorry, after the US election in November this year.

MARK DAVIS: Do you think that proposal is acceptable to the – to Ayatollah Sistani?

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: The Grand Ayatollah Sistani is a very practical person. As I have said several times, he’s apolitical. He’s not a politician, he’s not sort of working towards any official position and I think his call for election met so many aspirations, or the conscious, if you like, of the Iraqi people.

MARK DAVIS: You seem to be suspicious of the Americans, whether they will commit to an election. What’s the basis for that suspicion? Why wouldn’t – why couldn’t an election be held in the foreseeable future?

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: Well, we don’t – in Iraq, we are leading and we are going through an important historic process and that’s rebuilding Iraq and rebuilding a whole country and we don’t want to have our timetable fit exactly the requirement of other people’s timetable.

MARK DAVIS: For your opinion, when should an election be held, when could an election be safely held?

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: See, I think we should have election on – before the end of the year and this is possible technically, according to the Iraqi experts. It’s possible also security wise. The security in this country is not that bad at all. It’s not the way it’s been portrayed by the media. I think the reason for delaying the election in Iraq is probably mainly political reasons and I don’t agree with these political reasons. See, people keep on telling us that the Islamists, the fundamentalists, the fanatics, the extremists are going to prevail in Iraq if we hold election now. I believe these people they do not understand Iraq.

MARK DAVIS: There does seem to be also very well held fear of violence through an election campaign. Equally there’s fear that if there isn’t an election there’ll be increasing violence. It’s a difficult path. Which way do you see is the way forward?

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: Probably is going to be like this for long time to come, Mark, and I believe we have to hold elections as soon as possible. Now if we look at the crimes which are politically motivated crimes, I agree they are much more sophisticated now and we need to adopt new measures to tackle this act of terrorism. The terrorism is not an Iraqi phenomena it’s not only a Middle Eastern phenomena, it’s a global phenomena.

MARK DAVIS: What I’m suggesting sir, is that the focus of those terrorist attacks may well change. I mean, what’s the mood amongst your fellow council members? Presumably after June 30 you will become the main target for terror attacks.

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: Well, we are the main target of these terrorist attacks since 30 July last year. But that’s not going to deter us from our job. That’s not going to derail the political process in Iraq. The main aim of these terrorists is to convert Iraq to an ungovernable state and that’s not going to succeed.

MARK DAVIS: Mouwafak al-Rubii, thanks again for joining us.

MOUWAFAK AL-RUBII: Thank you very much for having me.