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President Talabani fears power vacuum if vote delayed

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-18

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told FRANCE 24 in an interview on Wednesday that he feared a power vacuum if January elections are delayed following a veto from an Iraqi vice-president on a key electoral law.

Iraq's general election was thrown into doubt on Wednesday after a law governing the planned January vote was vetoed, creating what the prime minister termed a "dangerous threat" to stability.

Iraq's presidential council, composed of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and two vice-presidents, one Sunni and one Shiite, has demanded a greater say in the election for minorities and for nationals living abroad.

The insistence on securing the relevant change in the law governing the vote led Tareq al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice-president, to veto the legislation.

“When parliament adopted this law, Mr. Hashemi and I saw some drawbacks in the law. But we thought we must adopt it and then write a letter according to our rights as presidency,” Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told FRANCE 24 on Wednesday. 

“Mr Hashemi was under pressure from his society, so he asked parliament to change some articles and to amend some of it. When the committee refused, he was obliged to reject and refuse the law,” he said.

Read the full transcript:

FRANCE 24 - Why are you here? Has your trip gone well?

Jalal Talabani -
It's true, this is my first state visit, although I have visited France in the past. We reached a kind of mutual understanding and agreement to turn Iraqi-French relations into a strategic relationship. We got on well with President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Fillon and all those who we met - the heads of the national assembly, and the senate. We also had good meetings with French businessmen and companies."

F24 - So what contracts did you sign?

JT -
There were many agreements signed by ministers of foreign affairs, of finance, of (...) ministers of defence from both countries - and some other agreements underway.

F24 - What guarantees can you give to foreign investors though given the current security situation there?

JT -
I think the security in Iraq is not as bad as exaggerated propaganda makes it sound. We have places that are fully secure like Iraqi Kurdistan, and south of Basra and others. Najaf and Karbala are fully secure. The activity of the terrorists is now limited, not like it was a year ago. So we are going to take measures against terrorist activities and I think we can guarantee the safety of all business and companies who want to come to Iraq to work.

F24 -
So welcoming French companies...

JT -
We are welcoming French business people and also French companies to come to Iraq. We are encouraging them, we will facilitate things for them to try to encourage them to come to Iraq.

F24 - On a diplomatic note - you say Nicolas Sarkozy is a great friend to Iraq...

JT -

F24 - Previously through, Dominique de Villepin stood up in front of the UN and said he was opposed to the war in Iraq...

JT - You know, Mr Sarkozy was a good friend of the Iraqi people. When we were in opposition he was so kind to receive us in his office as interior minister, and he was always supporting our democracy and ending dictatorship in Iraq. Although France didn't vote for war against dictatorship, because they think that it was not according to the international law. But in reality, after the collapse of the dictatorship, they helped us: they recognized our constitution, our election, our government, our presidency, and they tried to have good relations with us. So France was not against the desire of the Iraqi people for having democracy and having a government elected by the people.

F24 -
Issue of democracy - can I get your response to Tareq al Hashemi's vetoing of the parliamentary vote?

JT -
You know, when parliament adopted this law, we in the presidency - both me and Mr. Hashemi - we saw some mistakes of some shortages in this law. But we thought we must adopt it and then write a letter according to our rights as presidency. Mr Hashemi was under pressure from his society, so he asked parliament to change some articles and to amend some of it. When the committee refused, he was obliged to reject and refuse the law. The law will go back to parliament and it will be reviewed and discussed again at ending the shortages of the law...

F24 -
Will that be in time for elections in January?

JT -
You know, I am afraid... The reason why I didn't reject it is because I didn't want to see any delay in the election - because if the election is delayed after the time that was decided by the constitution, then there will be a vacuum of power in Iraq. This was the main reason. The second reason was because the Kurdish deputees in parliament unanimously voted for this law. So I cannot reject the desires of the unanimous Kurdish deputies in parliament.

F24 -
Which begs the question - and we're running out of time. Are you first and foremost a Kurd, or an Iraqi?

JT - I am an Iraqi Kurd!

Date created : 2009-11-18

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