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Iraq's steady progress toward security and prosperity.



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER FA10 25 January 2004

VISIT TO THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

IRAQ’S STEADY PROGRESS TOWARD SECURITY AND PROSPERITY

Senior Iraqi leaders have painted a picture of increasing stability and opportunity in Iraq during my meetings at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

I held discussions with Iraq’s Interim Governing Council Member and current Council President, Mr Pachachi, interim Foreign Minister Mr Zebari, and interim Minister of Planning and Development Cooperation, Mr Al-Hafedh.

The overwhelming view of the ministers was that Iraq’s security situation had improved since the capture of Saddam Hussein. While tragically Iraqi civilians - and members of the coalition - continue to die at the hands of terrorists, attacks are fewer and less frequent. And terrorists increasingly find themselves isolated from the desires and aspirations of ordinary Iraqis.

The Ministers expressed optimism that the political process in Iraq would proceed well. The Interim Governing Council’s timetable for Iraq’s transition to democracy and self-rule had given Iraqis a clear goal to work toward.

The willingness of the United Nations to consider sending a technical team to Iraq to examine the feasibility of direct elections was welcomed. Australia would support practical adjustments to the timetable for political transition that are backed by the majority of Iraqis and which would facilitate the transfer of authority to the Iraqi people.

I was informed that steady progress toward rehabilitating Iraq’s infrastructure was being made. Australia has committed over $120 million to Iraq’s humanitarian and reconstruction needs, including in Iraq’s vital agricultural sector. I agreed to Mr Zebari’s request that Australia provide training assistance to young diplomats in Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

All three Ministers expressed their sincerest thanks for Australia’s contribution to ending the tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Iraqis are heartened by the continuing support of Australians as their country moves toward a new, brighter future.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 0419 206 890 Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

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