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Iraq: National Conference.

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I welcome the successful conclusion of the Iraq National Conference held this week.

The Conference was a clear demonstration of democracy in action in Iraq. It was attended by 1200 delegates, including 275 women. Participants came from across the country and represented a broad range of ethnic, religious and tribal groups.

The key outcome of the conference was the appointment of a 100-strong Interim National Council. This is an important transitional step in Iraq’s political development.

The Interim National Council will have the authority to monitor the implementation of laws, appoint replacements to the Presidency council, veto executive orders by a two-thirds majority vote and approve the 2005 Iraqi national budget.

The council will serve until Iraq’s national elections due to be held in January next year. These will be the first national elections since the removal of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime.

Discussion at the conference also covered a wide range of issues, including the requirements for developing democracy in Iraq, Saddam’s legacy, security issues, the role of women, anti-corruption measures and a range of tribal and regional issues.

I congratulate the conference chairman, Dr Fouad Masoum, whose skilful management of this complex process was critical to the overall success of the conference. I also welcome the participation of the UN Special Representative to Iraq Ashraf Jehangir Qazi.

Australia continues to support Iraq’s political development process by working closely with the Interim Iraqi Government, the United Nations and the international community in Iraq. The Government has directed $5 million towards supporting preparations for Iraq’s national elections.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500 Julie McDonald (DFAT) 02 6261 1555

Media releases and speeches are available from DFAT via the internet.