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Khalifa: Rectify imbalance in Iraq

posted on 04/06/2003: 723 views

London - The war in Iraq is still casting heavy shadows in the Middle East, creating a state of imbalance which will only end when Baghdad returns back to the Arab, regional and international fold, according to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

"The state of imbalance in Iraq's political sphere is a natural outcome of the dramatic events that took place there. The time has come for the Iraqi people to forge ahead and restructure the country's political sphere into a form that Iraq can easily adopt," Sheikh Khalifa added.

"We are confident that there are many qualified statesmen in Iraqi who can play that active role and put an end to this era where the only victims are the Iraqi people," Sheikh Khalifa said in an interview with Tajudeen Abdul Haq of the Arabic language daily "Asharq Al Awsat.” Answering a query on Iraq joining the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Sheikh Khalifa noted that "Iraq is not far away geographically from the GCC countries and is a strategic part of the region." He added that there are many factors which define the merits of Baghdad joining the Council.

"It is too early to speak about this issue, but in the coming days and when the situation develops positively in Iraq on both the political and economic levels, it will help determine the position of the GCC countries in this regard." "We do not wish to concentrate now on this issue because the priority is Iraq's reconstruction and healing the wounds," Sheikh Khalifa said, noting that the GCC countries had been exerting utmost efforts to help alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people.

On whether he will raise the question of Iraq's future in his talks with British officials during his current visit to London, Sheikh Khalifa said the UAE's policy always has been to help Iraq set up a government capable of utilising its vast mineral and human resources for the interests of its people. "We believe that our British friends have an influential role in help achieve that goal, given their political and military clout that played a vital role in the course of recent events," he said.

Referring to the possible impact on the world oil market when Iraq resumes its oil exports, Sheikh Khalifa said since Iraq is a major oil producer and one of the main founders of OPEC; having Iraq back does not raise any concerns and reservations. "On the contrary, it brings comfort as it will represent a fresh contribution to national reconstruction and also contribute to the stability of the world oil market."

But he noted that it would take some time before Iraq's oil production facilities were rehabilitated. Asked what if Iraq leaves OPEC, Sheikh Khalifa said, "We cannot make judgements on assumptions on reports from unofficial sources that lack credibility.

"We should judge on the basis of decisions made by the future Iraqi government," he said. "The decision by Iraq whether to stay in OPEC or to leave cannot be taken in the current circumstances." Sheikh Khalifa said, "We are not afraid of any increase in Iraqi oil output because market forces regulate this matter. But the fact is that a decline in oil prices will harm both producers and consumers."

Speaking on the terrorist bombings in Riyadh and Casablanca, Sheikh Khalifa condemned the attacks and voiced the UAE's full support for Saudi Arabia and Morocco in their fight against terrorism. "These acts are targeting Arab security and stability and is serving enemies of Arabs and Muslims." He expressed the belief that a consolidation of international peace would strip the terrorists of their instruments and purported justifications, which they use to affect the minds of young people."

Sheikh Khalifa said linking these bloody, aggressive acts with Islam and targeting countries serving and protecting Islam, is an irony that exposes how these culprits are blundering in deep waters. By doing so, they back the enemies of Islam and harm our just cause." Asked whether the war in Iraq was the beginning of a re-drawing of the Middle East map, Sheikh Khalifa said the phrase was dictated by certain circumstances and that there had not yet been any specific statements that could be interpreted as providing any official basis for such suggestions.

"We believe the current political moves in the Arab region cannot be attributed to foreign pressure but are due to the need for change, to involve the region in the process of global changes taking place. Our people have the competence and prudence to play an influential role in international events," he said.

In regards to the latest developments in the Middle East peace process, Sheikh Khalifa said Israel should be pressed to return to the negotiating table, as part of a bid to reach a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement based on international resolutions.

"The world's major powers, in particular, and the international community in general, have many means to press Israel so that it honours its pledges that will satisfy the Palestinian people and meets their ambition of establishing an independent state. "Sheikh Khalifa added that Israeli governments had signed peace accords with the Palestinians before, but had not kept their promises, which has generated mistrust". He also hailed the efforts made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to reach an international consensus on the urgency of resuming the peace process.

"We see that international pressure on Israel from the sponsors of the Peace Process during the negotiations will give Israel one choice only - that of peace and of granting the Palestinian people their legitimate rights." He also slammed the international community for focusing its attention on issues that were less critical than that of the Palestinians.

Sheikh Khalifa said the Federal National Council (FNC) plays a vital role in the country's political life, noting that the country's constitution provides for the inclusion of a mechanism for consultations in decision-making.

"President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Their Highnesses the Supreme Council Members and Rulers of the Emirates have developed a political structure that keeps abreast of the pace of the social and political life." He said the FNC also acts as a channel through which the views of the people can be transmitted to the leaders and helps in the development of institutions.

On the possibility of changes to the FNC, he said change should not be done for the sake of change alone, but only in accordance with the development of society. "If studies recommend the introduction of new forms of development in all spheres, including the political sphere, we will then act to work out the suitable formula without adversely affecting our intellectual, social and cultural identity.

"If there is a need for change in the FNC, it will include the mechanism for selection of members, their numbers, the ratio of representation and the powers of the house and its members". He noted that there are many mechanisms for development, and said, "But we shall avoid anything that might lead to what could be called a 'political show' at the expense of a cohesive political structure build by a prudent, far-sighted leadership. "No amendment of the Constitution, or of the basic statutes of the FNC is required for the involvement of women in the Council." He said that Sheikh Zayed has frequently underlined that there is no article in the constitution that forbids women to join the FNC or even the government.

In a comment on the arms procurement policies, he stressed that the UAE buys weapons in accordance with the needs of its armed forces and its assessment of the military balance as well as technological advances taking place in the defence industry. "We procure arms from different sources and this doesn't pose difficulties in absorbing the latest technologies. Future arms deals will be made in accordance with scheduled plans and advances in the military industry. These matters are not affected by the political and military situations," he said.

Speaking on the demographic imbalance in the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa said that drafting new laws on Emiratisation would offer a practical framework for a solution to the problem. "We know that both the public and private sectors have their own roles in this respect. But we see that there is a role to be played at the heart of the economic security process. "To correct the imbalance in the demographic structure, it is necessary to train national manpower which can make its presence felt in the labour market through their skill and professionalism, and not through the imposition of rules and regulations."

As regards the three UAE islands occupied by Iran, Sheikh Khalifa said the government is keen to see dialogue with Iran go ahead, out of its belief that negotiations are the best means to resolve disputes. "Sheikh Zayed has invited Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to visit the UAE. Khatami has accepted the invitation out of the mutual interest of the two countries to maintain friendly relations between the two leaderships and peoples." (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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