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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 17:56 GMT
The New Iraq
Mowaffak al-Rubaie
Mowaffak al-Rubaie thinks the Shia will cooperate with the coalition.

In a HARDtalk interview on January 20th, Tim Sebastian speaks to a member of the Iraqi Governing Council about the latest suicide bombing and the disputed system of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis later this year.

Dr Mowaffak al-Rubaie is one of the 25 members of the Iraqi Governing Council and closely allied to the country's most powerful Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

The Shia make up about 60 percent of the population of Iraq. Ayatollah Sistani opposes the plans of the Coalition Provisional Authority for unelected committees to chose the new Iraqi government that will take over from the CPA on July 1st 2004.

we can not rely on our neighbours who are not terribly friendly
Mowaffak al-Rubaie
He has called for direct elections and thousands have taken to the streets in Baghdad and in the south of Iraq shouting, 'Yes to elections' and 'No to occupation'.

Recent experience has shown that the Governing Council is unwilling to act against Ayatollah Sistani's edicts and this show of strength on the streets is a big headache for the CPA who want no electoral law, no census - think it's impossible.

Dr al-Rubaie, who is considered a mouthpiece for Sistani who never leaves his house, said that he thought a compromise could be reached and the Shia were willing to cooperate and work with the Coalition.

He denied that Sistani was inflexible on the issue of elections: 'I think he will accept a referendum instead of general elections. I also think he will probably accept some sort of approved list (of candidates) for people to put forward to a referendum.'

Security

When Tim Sebastian asked Dr al-Rubaie about the security situation once power was transferred to the Iraqis, he replied, 'the juvenile democracy on 1st July will need a protector and we can not rely on our neighbours who are not terribly friendly'.

But with another suicide bombing over the weekend, the security situation is as tenuous as ever - even with the most powerful army in the world in control. Dr al-Rubaie was critical of the Americans, saying they were not tough enough.

They should have 'continued to take the strike to the home of the terrorists.' He said the weekend's bomb was well-timed to keep the United Nations out of Iraq.

Saddam

Dr al-Rubaie was one of the first people allowed to visit Saddam Hussein in jail. When Tim Sebastian asked him what it was like to see him like that, he smiled broadly.

He said he found him to be a 'miserable, demoralised, broken man.'

But there was 'pure evil radiating from his face' and he was 'totally unrepentant' and made no apology for the crimes he committed against the Iraqi people.

Dr al-Rubaie felt very strongly that the Iraqi people want to see Saddam Hussein on trial in Iraq and that provisions were being made for a proper trial.

HARDtalk can be seen on BBC World at 04:30 GMT, 11:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT, 19:30 GMT and 00:30 GMT

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30



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