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New Iraqi Foreign Minister Praises Arab League Decision on Ruling Council Recognition - 2003-09-11

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council has won a measure of recognition from its Arab neighbors, with the decision this week to allow the council's foreign minister to represent Iraq at the Arab League. In an interview with VOA's Kurdish Service, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says it is the first step toward re-establishing Iraq's place in the global political arena.

Foreign Minister Zebari says bringing Iraq back into the international community is his top priority. Attending the Arab League's meeting of foreign ministers, he adds, was an important first step in that direction.

"We want to move Iraq from an outlaw state, from a rogue state to a modern civilized law abiding country," he said. "This is a major challenge indeed and needs a lot of effort, edcuation and rehabilitation."

Mr. Zebari expects to represent the new Iraq at the United Nations General Assembly later this month. He also expects Iraq to quickly regain its place in other international and regional organizations.

"We have also a donors conference coming up in Madrid that we need to do our homework to be prepraed to seek support fom the international community to share the burden of reconstruction," he said.

An important part of repairing relations with the international community, he says, is reassuring Iraq's neighbors that Baghdad no longer poses a threat.

"Definitely the new Iraq will not develop weapons of mass destruction," he said. "It will not support terrorism. It will support stability and peace in the region as a whole and in the Middle East."

In a phone interview from Cairo, Mr. Zebari told VOA's Kurdish Service, the Iraqi Governing Council also plans to reopen the country's diplomatic missions, starting with its embassies in neighboring states that have been closed since the start of the war last March that ousted Saddam Hussein from power.

The Iraqi diplomat acknolwedges an urgent challenge for Iraq remains security. And, that, he says will be best achieved by Iraqis themselves.

"The coalition can be enormously helpful and supportive to create a conducive atmosphere for the political process to move ahead," he said. "But, we believe, and this is a shared view among many members of the governing council, that the Iraqis themselves should take up the security responsibilty."

U.S. and British forces now have begun training Iraqi police and security forces to gradually take over more of the security burden.