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Breakfast with Frost
Sunday 13 July, 2003 , BBC Breakfast with Frost Interview with Sharif Ali Bin Hussein, Constitutional Monarchy Campaign

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

Sharif Ali Bin Hussein
Sharif Ali is campaigning to restore the monarchy

PETER SISSONS: Well post-war Iraq is a pretty chaotic and dangerous place to be, but that hasn't stopped some Iraqis who have been living in exile from returning to the country.

One of the first back was Sharif Ali Bin Hussein, his family fled when he was only two after his cousin, the last king of Iraq, was ousted in a military coup and executed. Sharif Ali Bin Hussein is campaigning to restore the monarchy - indeed he would like to succeed King Faisal II - and he joins us now from Baghdad. Good morning to you.

SHARIF ALI BIN HUSSEIN: Good morning.

PETER SISSONS: It doesn't sound like a huge priority for Iraq at the moment - most people would like the telephones and the electricity restored rather than the monarchy.

SHARIF ALI BIN HUSSEIN: Well it's not a case of rather than the monarchy, it's a case of priorities and one of my first statements on arriving in Iraq was that we had to concentrate, not on the politics but on getting normalcy back into Iraqi lives.

That is restoring law and order, restoring basic services, revitalising the economy and getting the legal system back to work. Only then could we ask Iraqis to review the political situation.

PETER SISSONS: But do you get ordinary Iraqis coming up to you and saying we wish we had a king?

SHARIF ALI BIN HUSSEIN: Oh absolutely. In fact they've been coming in the thousands. But it's not really about just the monarchy, it's about choosing the system of government that will most guarantee and ensure the restoration of democracy and the maintenance of people's civil liberties.

PETER SISSONS: But haven't the - haven't Iraqis had enough of a ruling family and its palaces and all patronage and so forth that goes with it?

SHARIF ALI BIN HUSSEIN: Actually that was under the republic not under the monarchy. The monarchy would be a constitutional monarchy that would ensure that people's freedoms are respected, that it would stand against and prevent the rise of new dictatorships, the oppression of the minority by the majority - or the, the oppression of the majority by the minority. The role of the monarch would be to protect the people, protect the state institutions and allow fair competition between political parties.

PETER SISSONS: Now the 25 member Provisional Governing Council is holding its inaugural meeting today in Baghdad. How big a step forward is that?

SHARIF ALI BIN HUSSEIN: Well it's a step forward but it doesn't really satisfy by any means the ambitions of the Iraqi people. It's an appointed council by Ambassador Bremer and all decisions have to be okayed by him and so it has very limited authority and sovereignty.

We are committed to working with it so that we can move forward but I think the aspirations of the Iraqi people are much greater than what is being presented at the moment.

PETER SISSONS: Well how quickly do you think, from this beginning, that Iraqis can be presented with full democracy?

SHARIF ALI BIN HUSSEIN: Well I think the agenda should be speeded up really. It is not acceptable that the coalition authorities annulled and dissolved all government institutions, annulled and dissolved the police force and then says that they have to remain here a long time because there is a security problem and an administration problem.

The standard of living of the average Iraqi is much, much worse off than it was at the eve of the war and Iraqi people are wondering why is that the case.

PETER SISSONS: Well one of the preoccupations of the coalition has been de-Ba'athification, to cleanse the country of members of the Ba'ath party. Has that been a mistake?

SHARIF ALI BIN HUSSEIN: Well yes in the manner in which it has been applied it has been a huge mistake because they have just, as I said, dissolved entirely the national institutions of the country. We need to say that Iraqi is not Afghanistan but apparently the coalition intends to make it Afghanistan.

Millions of civil servants wanted to return to work and they were prevented by the coalition - inexplicably, on the basis that even traffic police are former Ba'ath party members and supporters of Saddam, which of course is ridiculous. PETER SISSONS: How long do you believe the Americans have got to sort this out before the security situation becomes even more serious?

SHARIF ALI BIN HUSSEIN: I think there is extremely limited time and I even told them over a year ago that they had between three and six months to really have their honeymoon period before Iraqis forgot their, the role they played in the liberation - which we are all very grateful for - but now it is time to hand over sovereignty and power to the Iraqi people.

We are not a colony, we are a free people, we are members of the United Nations, we are a sovereign state, we can rule ourselves.


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