By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 16, 2009 - American and United Nations officials are urging the Iraqi parliament to move quickly on legislation to allow Iraq to hold national elections in January. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher R. Hill and Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, issued a joint statement Oct. 13 requesting that the work be done in time for elections to be held Jan. 16.
"The United States encourages the [council] to act expeditiously on this important legislation that will set the terms for successful, transparent political participation in this milestone event," the joint statement says. "We also note the important role the Independent High Electoral Commission plays at this critical juncture."
Hill and Odierno said they share the concerns of Ambassador Ad Melkert, U.N. special envoy to Iraq and head of the U.N. Assistance Mission there, who called on Iraq's Council of Representatives to revise the legal framework for the elections.
"Holding parliamentary elections on 16 January appears to be something that is strongly desired by the people of Iraq, will be a vital milestone for Iraq's democratization process, and called for by the Iraq constitution," Melkert said in a release from the U.N. Assistance Mission.
Three months ahead of the scheduled parliamentary elections, Melkert said, the Iraqi Council of Representatives has not yet come to consensus on an election law.
Many Iraqi politicians are calling for a review of the commission before the elections. Melkert and the American leaders believe the review should wait until after Jan. 16.
"We share [the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq's] concerns about the effect altering the management of [the commission] at this time could have on the January election timetable," Hill and Odierno said in their statement.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman yesterday said the time is right for Iraq to have the election. "The political environment in Iraq is good and we expect the elections to go forward there after a healthy debate," he said.
While U.S. forces in Iraq have withdrawn from the towns and cities of the country, they continue to train Iraqi forces. They also serve to provide some logistical and operational support to the Iraqi security forces.
The United States will maintain more than 100,000 servicemembers in Iraq until after the January elections, U.S. officials in Baghdad said. The troops will be ready to help Iraqi security forces if the Iraqi government requests the assistance, they said.