Sistani on Elections
In an interview with the Baghdad daily az-Zaman, a spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani said that he expects his negotiations with various parties concerning the transition to an Iraqi government this summer to bear fruit in a matter of days. (Sistani has exchanged letters with US civil administrator Paul Bremer, and has met with a number of members of the Interim Governing Council). The spokesman, who asked to remain unnamed, said that Sistani continues to insist that the United Nations send election observers, who could also inform Iraqis about the best way to hold elections. (Sistani had earlier requested that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan certify that general elections could not be held before July 1. Annan gave a speech a week ago in which he so certified). Sistani nevertheless wishes to find a way to involve the UN in the decision about how elections should proceed, and in the process of holding them. Initially, Sistani had insisted that direct elections be held, and had rejected Bremer’s plan for more controlled caucus elections by hand-picked regional councils. Bremer and Sistani are still trying to negotiate a compromise.
Sistani snubbed a delegation from the Arab League that went to see Muqtada al-Sadr, 30, on its arrival in Najaf. Only then did the delegates head to Sistani’s office, but they did not find him in; he had departed for home. (Given Sistani’s seniority, it was a slap in the face for him that the delegation went to see Muqtada, a very young man, first. Muqtada’s forthright opposition to the US occupation, however, tracks more closely with the attitude of most Arab League members than does Sistani’s comparative quietism.)
The head of the Arab League delegation, Ahmad Bin Hilli, said after the meeting with Muqtada Monday in Najaf that the young cleric was full of ideas and a vision on ending the occupation, and the political process in Iraq.
For his part, Muqtada said, “We had awaited this meeting impatiently. This will be a new beginning between the Arab League and the Iraqi people.