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Iraqi Shi'a Leader Calls for Unity in RFE/RL Interview


(Prague, Czech Republic--January 28, 2005) One of the most powerful political figures in Iraq appealed for unity and understanding among Iraqis in an exclusive interview with Radio Free Iraq in Baghdad. Radio Free Iraq is the Arabic language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL); the interview was broadcast in two parts on January 24 and 27, 2005.

Head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, who tops the list of the United Iraqi Alliance [Al-I'tilaf al-'Iraqi al-Muwahhad], said "candidates on the lists, politicians, and [political] subjects who have entered the process of elections, besides following their aims, must unite their efforts so that the elections are held in a peaceful atmosphere."

Al-Hakim said in the interview, conducted in Arabic and broadcast in two parts this week on RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, that there was already a growing unity among Iraq's Shi'a groups going into Sunday's parliamentary elections in response to an initiative from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. According to al-Hakim, representatives of Ayatollah al-Sistani worked with various groups to form a coalition and a unified party list of candidates to the National Assembly. He said "there came a request from Ayatollah al-Sistani's office that it would like to contribute in searching for mutual understanding among the groups and for the concept of a coalition. Ayatollah al-Sistani's office was so kind to help in setting the list of the United Iraqi Alliance... It set the order of names and subjects [on the list]. This is by itself a great work and a big achievement."

Al-Hakim said the National Assembly that will be elected in Sunday's poll should have a limited term of office, not longer than one year and its top priority will be to improve security in the country. According to Al-Hakim, "There will be no progress in the reconstruction of Iraq unless there are acceptable security conditions. And there cannot be any progress in the political process unless there is satisfactory security... The security issue is the prime issue [for us] so we will put a lot of efforts into improving the security situation."

Audio of the interview (in Arabic) is available on the Radio Free Iraq website at Al-Hakim-RFIraq part one and Al-Hakim-RFIraq part two. An English-language transcript of the interview has been posted to RFE/RL's special "Iraq Votes 2005" web page. The page contains information on Iraqi parliamentary, Kurdish parliamentary, and provincial elections including featured reports and archived election coverage.

The "Iraq Votes 2005" web page also provides English-language transcripts of Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interviews and reports on the elections; commentaries from the Iraqi press; a list of the "major contenders" on the ballot; a comprehensive list of the political parties competing in the election; and a summary of the stances of some parties. An interactive map gives detailed information on the situation in each governorate, or province. The "Iraq Votes 2005" web page can be accessed at http://www.rferl.org/specials/iraqelections/
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