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Iraqi Envoy Stresses National Unity to Ease Transition - 2004-06-29


Iraq's representative in the United States says the interim government must quickly win the confidence and trust of the Iraqi population to help in the fight against terrorists aiming to disrupt the transition.

Iraq's ambassador-designate, who has not yet presented her credentials, Rend Rahim says one way to defeat insurgents fighting to disrupt the transition process is to implement a political process of inclusion, not exclusion - not an easy task in a country divided by ethnic, tribal and religious loyalties.

"I think more Iraqis need to feel they are a part of the political process," she said. "Again, we have not been successful in that. We need to bring more people in, engage them."

Speaking at a conference in Washington a day after the official handover of power, Ms. Rahim stresses the need for national unity, especially when it comes to fighting terrorism.

"And I would suggest the first thing we need to do in selling the new Iraq, in selling the message, is to win the minds of Iraqis. The new government must get all Iraqis on its side on the war on terrorism," she said.

Ms. Rahim is counting on Iraqi control of the media to help. "We need to use the media to our advantage as well, just as the terrorists have used it to theirs," reminded Ms. Rahim.

Ms. Rahim underlines the need to regain the trust of ordinary Iraqis who opposed the U.S.-led occupation and still have doubts about the new leadership.

"We must also win people's hearts through winning their wallets and their bellies," emphasized Ms. Rahim. "I've often spoken about the dramatic rise in wages in Iraq, but that's only for those actually employed. A high percentage of the population is unemployed or underemployed."

She says it is time to engage more Iraqi companies rather than relying on U.S. and other foreign contractors that were active during the U.S.-led occupation.

Ms. Rahim sees it partly as a strategy rethink and as a marketing campaign. Iraq for Iraqis, she says, should be the new motto.

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