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Ahmad Chalabi: Iraq's Future Should Be Left to Iraqis - 2003-04-18


Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi has arrived in Baghdad and says he is ready to help rebuild his country, but not to participate in any U.S. led interim authority. Mr. Chalabi heads the Iraqi National Congress (INC).

INC leader Ahmad Chalabi says he would not take part in the interim administration being set up by an American team lead by retired U.S. army general Jay Garner.

"I am not a candidate for any position in the interim government," he said. "My role will be focused on building civil society. I want to help build civil society which I believe is the basis a democratic society."

The exiled politician sketched out a rough timetable for Iraq's transition to democracy, which he says should take about two years.

Guarded by a U.S.-trained militia, called the Free Iraqi Forces, Mr. Chalabi told a news conference the priority now is to restore basic services and law and order.

Distancing himself more and more from the U.S. government, which has provided financial and logistical support, Mr. Chalabi says Iraq's future should be left to Iraqis.

"They were unable to overthrow the totalitarian regime on their own but it is also true that they have shed any credibility of this regime due to their resistance to this regime," he said. "Such people as the Iraqi people will not be puppets of anyone. Such a people will not tolerate puppets ruling them. They know the truth and they will vote for whom they trust."

Mr. Chalabi's ambition to play a key role in shaping Iraq's future has been tempered by his lack of name recognition. Many Iraqis say they have not heard of the exiled politician, who has lived outside the country for the past 45 years.