Sat, 12 Apr 2003

`RI should support Iraqis to rebuild their country'

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia should support the Iraqi people to rebuild their country, following news reports over the fall of Baghdad to U.S.- led coalition forces and the absence of a functioning government in the country, analysts said on Friday.

Hikmahanto Juwana, professor of international law at the School of Law at the University of Indonesia, said Indonesia's stance in opposing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq should not bar it from participating in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq.

"Our stance against the unilateral attack by the U.S.-led coalition on Iraq and our support for the Iraqis in rebuilding their country after war are two different things," he said.

To obtain legal and moral justification, Hikmahanto suggested that the government seek a greater role for the United Nations (UN) in establishing an interim administration in Iraq and in pursuing Iraq reconstruction.

Riza Sihbudi, an analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), concurred and said the UN, and not the coalition forces, must either facilitate or establish an interim government in Iraq to "prevent imperialistic acts".

"The interim administration must be established soon to maintain law and order as well as to take on administrative tasks to prepare elections for the creation of a legitimate government," he said.

If the UN lets the coalition forces establish an interim government in Iraq, Riza warned, the Iraqi people may not support it.

"If it is opposed, the reconstruction in Iraq would not run smoothly and it would only create prolonged suffering among the Iraqi people," he said.

He noted that the Iraqi people should not be burdened with an interim government they oppose, as they had suffered under the repressive regime of President Saddam Hussein for 25 years and from the war.

Hikmahanto added that the Indonesian government must be active in the UN and cooperate with other countries, such as those from the Non-Aligned Movement, to involve Iraqis in the reconstruction process and prevent the coalition forces from dominating the management of Iraq after the war.

"It's not an easy task. I wonder if the Iraqi people would support the coalition in forming an administration that will bow to coalition interests," Hikmahanto said.

He warned that this could lead to deeper internal conflicts in Iraq.

Indonesia, which staunchly opposes the U.S.-led war on Iraq, has yet to take a political stance over the fall of Baghdad.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda has said that the government would continue to recognize Saddam Hussein as the legitimate Iraqi president until the situation in Iraq became clearer.

Both Hikmahanto and Riza, however, said that Indonesia should recognize Iraq as a sovereign state, instead of as an entity defined by its regime or administration.