Sat, 12 Apr 2003

U.S. envoy calls for RI role in postwar Iraq

Berni K. Moestafa and Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia should participate in the reconstruction of Iraq, said the United States Ambassador to Indonesia Ralph L. Boyce on Friday, as countries worldwide scrambled for a share of lucrative contracts to rebuild postwar Iraq.

When asked whether Indonesia should take part in the reconstruction of Iraq, Boyce said, "Sure, I think Indonesia has a role to play."

"It's very important that Indonesia plays a role because of Indonesia's position as one of the world's largest countries, an emerging democracy," the ambassador said at a press briefing on Friday.

Boyce would not go into details as to in which areas Indonesia could play a role in the reconstruction.

"Obviously, (Indonesia) has a lot of its own problems and resource constraints, but to the extent that Indonesia can take part in helping Iraq, everybody would welcome that, especially the Iraqi people," he said.

Many other countries are vying for a role in the postwar reconstruction.

After the collapse of the Iraqi government, world attention has shifted toward who should lead the reconstruction.

With much of its infrastructure damaged during three weeks of war, many companies are rubbing their hands over future construction contracts in the oil-rich country.

Even governments that have opposed the war are now claiming a stake in Iraq, fearing that the coalition forces would divide the contracts among themselves and leave others out in the cold.

This has been one reason why governments, including Indonesia, have been pushing for a dominant United Nations role in postwar Iraq.

Many have said that a UN-led transition of Iraq would lend legitimacy to the new government that would replace the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. initiated the war without the consent of the UN Security Council. The U.S. government decided to go ahead with the war without UN authorization after having failed to win enough support among council members.

Jakarta has thus labeled the war illegal, and still recognizes Saddam Hussein as the legitimate Iraqi head-of-state.

Although the dust has yet to settle in Iraq, 58 countries have already voiced their interest in participating in its reconstruction, said U.S. State Secretary Colin L. Powell on Thursday.

He asserted that the UN would play a vital role, but statements from U.S. senior officials indicated this would be largely non-political in nature.

Indonesia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said on Friday, "The President said we must move forward with our diplomatic efforts to ensure that the UN will not be sidelined in the postwar process."

Hassan said Jakarta would wait for the situation in Iraq to clear up before examining the options for a postwar role.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has called on countries worldwide to close down Iraqi Embassies and to expel their ambassadors.

Hassan said Indonesia has not yet received such a request, but would reject it nevertheless. "The Iraqi Embassy will stay as it is, and remain here to take care of the more non-political issues," he said.

Iraq has no ambassador in Indonesia and its mission is headed by Charge d'Affaires Naji Al Hadithi. Al Hadithi could not be reached for comment, but a staff member said the embassy had long lost contact with Baghdad.