Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Outside the Meeting at Ur

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Outside the Meeting at Ur

Article excerpt

About 150 Iraqis hoping to voice their opinions on Iraq's future sought admittance to a small, exclusive meeting of opposition leaders gathered by the US government.

The meeting is the first of many to be held to determine the political future of Iraq. More than 70 delegates attended the meeting, held in the ancient city of Ur, near the Talil Air Base outside Nasiriyah.

The Iraqis were stopped at a military checkpoint, but talked freely with a reporter about their views on what the future may hold for Iraq.

Some stood behind a coil of barbed wire laid across the street. On the other side stood a line of military police with machine guns. Tensions began to rise as the Iraqis - some dressed in suits and ties - started yelling at the MPs. One man had his young children pick up stones to throw, but the crowd shooed him away.

"I would like to present. I would like to say my attitude," said Mohammed Bakoori, an education supervisor in Nasiriyah. Bakoori said those at the conference do not represent many Iraqis. They want to represent themselves.

"We need security first," said Mr. Bakoori. "We need a government under the supervision of [the US and UK] and to achieve democracy and freedom. But limited freedom, because most of our people don't understand freedom today." He says it will take two years before people can handle the "free, free, freedom."

Sami Alobady, an engineer active in an opposition group called the Iraqi Rescue Movement, said that the new leaders "must be from among these people," gesturing around the assembled crowd.

He's skeptical of Ahmed Chalabi, a prominent opposition leader who only recently came out of exile. Chalabi sent a representative to the meeting.

"He left Iraq years ago. He doesn't know now how the Iraqi people think and live. He doesn't know they are hungry and angry," said Mr. Alobady. As for the US troops, Alobady says their stay must be short. …

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