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Iraq: EU Set To Stress Elections, Regional Cooperation At Iraq Conference

The European Union today announced it has two "key objectives" for the international conference on Iraq taking place in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh in late November. The bloc is set to argue against delaying Iraq's scheduled January elections and to urge Baghdad's neighbors to step up border cooperation to help improve security.

Brussels, 19 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The European Commission said today that the conference in Sharm el-Sheikh on 22-23 November represents a "very important, significant moment" for Iraq.

Emma Udwin, a commission spokeswoman, described the list of participants as "extraordinary." Apart from Iraq, it features representatives from Iraq's neighboring countries, the EU, the United States, as well as major Islamic groups.

Udwin said the EU is set to stress two "key objectives" at the conference: "One is to underline the importance of the elections in January, elections that would be inclusive and participatory and genuinely competitive. As you know, we believe that the date should be maintained and that they should take place all over the country."

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Udwin said the EU wants a government to emerge from the elections that has the support of the Iraqi people "as expressed through credible elections."

She added that the elections are "a step, but not the end of story" for Iraq. She quoted UN Security Council resolutions that require a constitution to be approved by a referendum and further elections to be held in December 2005.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin said the EU wants a government to emerge from the elections that has the support of the Iraqi people "as expressed through credible elections."

Although security in Iraq is "far from ideal," Udwin said the elections are "part of the answer to the security situation on the ground."

Udwin said the full session meeting of the conference, on 23 November, is due to be preceded by a dinner with delegates from Iraq's neighboring countries.

She said the EU hopes an agreement will be reached to hold future meetings at the interior minister level, adding that this would help boost regional security cooperation.

"Our other key objective is to express our readiness to support cooperation between Iraq's neighbors because the group of Iraq's neighbors already made progress having met several times [and] it can play a very important role in stabilizing the region," Udwin said.

Udwin stressed the meeting is not a donor conference and no financial pledges will be made.

She said the conference is an important opportunity for the EU to send a signal "that it isn't only the [U.S.-led] coalition that believes in the political process in Iraq."

The European Commission will be represented by its new external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero Waldner. EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana will also be present, along with Foreign Minister Bernard Bot of the Netherlands, which holds the rotating EU Presidency. A number of EU member states will also send foreign ministers.

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