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Iraqi diplomat sees hope in new constitution

Al-Shibib believes Iraq will need help from coalition forces for at least another two to three years

(swissinfo.ch)

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva tells swissinfo he has no doubt that the country will adopt a new constitution at the weekend.

But Baha Al-Shibib cautions that success in Saturday's referendum would still leave his country facing a long and difficult journey towards peace and stability.

swissinfo: How confident are you that the draft constitution will be accepted?

Baha Al-Shibib: I have no doubt that the constitution is going to be adopted by a good majority, because this is the only way forward. I am sure the people are going to embrace it.

swissinfo: If the people do accept the constitution, do you think it will have an effect on the insurgency?

B.A-S.: Definitely, because the insurgency's main purpose is to disrupt the political process and the first achievement of the political process is to have a constitution that [the former dictator] Saddam Hussein denied the people for 35 years. The new constitution will strengthen the will of the Iraqi people, strengthen the political process and it will deny the terrorists fulfilment of their aims.

swissinfo: There is one problem, though, in that the Sunnis are not signing up to the constitution, only the Shi'ites and the Kurds...

B.A-S.: This is not true. I think the majority of Sunnis, individuals, intellectuals, and people who are fed up with the bloodshed, are going to embrace the constitution and vote in favour of it.

swissinfo: How far are we away from a day when Iraq will be able to stand on its own feet, without the support of foreign troops.

B.A-S.: I have to be quite honest: we need maybe a few years to build our national capability, by which I mean our police force, our army, our security forces to control the whole country. During this time we will definitely need the help of the coalition forces. In my personal opinion, it could be another two or three years.

swissinfo: But as long as foreign troops remain on Iraqi soil, their presence will continue to fuel the insurgency...

B.A-S.: That's very true. But as Iraqis start to take control of the cities, and American and British troops stay outside the cities where they are seen as a force disrupting people's daily lives, things will change.

swissinfo-interview: Adam Beaumont

In brief

Iraq votes on Saturday on whether to accept a new constitution. Sunni political leaders have called on Iraqis to reject the constitution by all legitimate means.

They fear it will lead to the break up of the country and the creation of two oil-rich and nearly autonomous regions – a Kurdish one in the north and a Shiite one in the south – and leave most Sunnis isolated in central and western Iraq.

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