02/14/2005, 00.00
IRAQ
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Government should protect minorities rights, says Mosul priest

Results for Christian tickets are below expectations. Hopes are now pinned on a Constitution that guarantees religious freedom.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – "Irrespective of origin, whether Kurdish or Shiites, as Christians and Iraqis we need a government that respects the country's minorities," Fr Ragheed Ganni, told AsiaNews.

From the Chaldean diocese of Mosul, a predominantly Sunni city in northern Iraq, Father Ganni is confident about the future despite the fact that Christian tickets were able to elect only three candidates to the 275-member National Assembly.

"What matters is that the future Constitution guarantees religious freedom and our right to worship," Father Ganni said.

According to the Mosul clergyman, Mosul residents deserted the polling stations out of fear. The Christian vote split because of the too many lists. "Perhaps, a single list would have been better rather than four," he explained.

In the northern province of Nineveh, to which Mosul belongs, an area with a high concentration of Christians, voting did not take place on January 30. Only 93 of the 330 polling stations were open and in some Christian villages like Qaraqosh, Baghdeda and Karamlesh electoral equipment and ballots never arrived.

Father Ganni is aware that in Mosul anti-government sentiments are strong. "Sunnis did not vote and are not talking about reconstruction," he said.

Tensions in Iraq's third largest city are in fact still running high. Over the weekend several clashes between the coalition forces and rebels have been reported with one woman killed.

According to Father Ganni, "US troops are still needed to ensure security in the country. Over time the government should be able to set up a security apparatus that will protect us, but to do this it needs the assistance of foreign military forces". (MA)

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