01/19/2005, 00.00
IRAQ
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Christians are needed to rebuild Iraq, says Shiite leader

The spokesman of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution condemns the abduction of the Bishop of Mosul and urges Christians and Muslims to work together. He fully backs Allawi to lead the country into the elections.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Shiite community condemns all forms of violence and considers the abduction of Mgr Basile Georges Casmoussa, Bishop of Mosul, a serious criminal act against a religious figure who must be defended because he represents a community, the Christian community, which itself must be protected and with whom we want to work together to rebuild the country.

Reached by phone in Baghdad, Hamid al-Bayati, spokesman for the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution (SCIRI), told AsiaNews that his organisation wants Christians and Muslims to cooperate for Christians constitute a "peaceful community that is part and parcel of Iraqi society".

For the Shiite leader, Christians and Muslims are similarly committed to "working together to achieve a new Iraq".

Christians play an important role in the country's economy, he said, adding that one cannot exclude that "some economic interests might be behind criminal acts" that have affected them.

The government, he insisted, must take every measure necessary "to arrest the criminals and hand them over to the justice system"; it must do everything it can to stop the violence so as to allow Iraqis to "fully live in harmony".

For Mr al-Bayati, the only way to ensure peace and security is "to hold elections on the scheduled date". Iraq, he added, has begun a slow political process that "must be assisted and completed".

He also stressed that Shiites are in "full support of the Allawi government", which is taking "all the necessary steps to guarantee that elections are fair and safe", notwithstanding the fact that in some areas "things are not calm". Elections, he believes, "are a crucial step towards greater stability and security".

The SCIRI spokesman went further and accused the former regime of freeing "more than 30,000 prisoners from Iraqi jails" who now contribute in no uncertain terms to the violence and intolerance.

These elements are backed by officials from Saddam's regime who "are desperately trying to regain the privileges they enjoyed in the past".

In addition, he cannot exclude that "foreign criminal elements might be involved in Iraq to sew mayhem". However, he is certain that their governments "are not directly responsible for their violence". (DS)

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