February 03, 2005 My Thanks to the British People By Iyad Allawi for www.timesonline.co.uk FOR THOSE fortunate to live in a stable, peaceful and democratic country such as Britain, it is difficult to understand the full importance and impact of Sundays elections on Iraq and its people. Perhaps only those denied freedom for so long can fully grasp its meaning. For millions of Iraqis, Sunday was a day of history and high emotion. I never doubted, despite the violence and threats, that the Iraqi people would demonstrate their courage and love of freedom. They knew how important Sundays poll was to their countrys future and knew, too, that the eyes of the world were on them. In every part of our great country and in huge numbers, they defied the terrorists, fanatics and cowards to play their own part in free and fair elections. Sunni, Shias, Arabs, Kurds, Turkomans and Christians marched to the polls as a national army, armed solely with their determination to live in liberty. The votes, of course, are still being counted so we dont know yet who has been elected. With 8,000 candidates and 100 different groups, it will take time. But we do already know who has won and who has lost. The winners are the millions of Iraqis who want their country to be free and peaceful, who want control of their own destiny and a better life for their families. The winners, too, are those who believe that a democratic Iraq can be a symbol of hope and progress throughout the region. The losers are the extremists and the terrorists who fear and despise freedom. Sundays historic vote does not mean, however, that the violence will quickly cease. There will, sadly, be more murder and pointless destruction in Iraq. But after Sunday, the Iraqi people know that the terrorists will not win and so do the terrorists themselves. They cannot fool themselves any longer about their level of support. I hope that some, at least, will get the message. It can be no coincidence that of the seven suicide bombers intercepted by our brave security forces on Sunday, not one was a citizen of our country. Neither, of course, were Sundays elections perfect. Such an outcome was never going to be possible less than two years after the fall of a brutal and all-powerful dictatorship. There can be no doubt either that the violence and threats to murder anyone who dared to vote reduced participation in parts of our country. But even in these areas, under the noses of the terrorists, thousands of people put freedom before their own safety. Others stayed away because they were not convinced by their leaders that these elections were for them. I am confident that this will change. For Sundays elections are only the beginning for the new democratic Iraq. There will be two more chances this year alone for Iraqis to play their part in deciding the direction of their country with national votes on the new constitution and then to elect a new assembly and government under its terms. I am convinced after the success of Sunday that participation rates for parties and voters will only increase. The challenge in front of us now is to make our politics as inclusive as possible through a constitution which respects the views and interests of all Iraqs communities and deserves, in turn, the support of all. Sunday was the launch pad for a new national unity and purpose for our country. Yesterday, I met the leaders of all Iraqs major political parties and groupings those who participated and those who did not to convey this message. We agreed together to launch together a new national dialogue. I therefore hope that all Iraqis, those who voted and those who did not, will now put the troubles and divisions of the past behind us. We need the involvement of all in building a new stable, secure and prosperous future for our families. It is time for Iraqis to demonstrate to the world the potential of our country as we did our courage on Sunday. Our destiny and our future is now, as we have dreamt, in our own hands. We dare not waste this chance. But none of this would have happened without Britain, the United States and your coalition partners. It is the steadfastness of your leaders and your citizens and, above all, the courage of your forces which have given our country this opportunity. I know that this has come at a very high cost. The terrible loss of life on Sunday was the latest sacrifice Britain has made. I want to express my gratitude to your country and my sympathy to the families. You can be as proud of the role that your country and its forces have played in giving Iraq this chance of a democratic future as I am of my fellow countrymen and women in seizing that opportunity with both hands on Sunday. I know, too, how divisive the conflict was in Britain, and many other countries, and the legacy of bitterness that remains. I ask, however, that just as our country must put its divisions behind us so you, too, unite to support the march for democracy and peace in Iraq. There can surely be no choice now for any democrat. The terrorists and fanatics offer nothing but despair and pain to Iraq. Sundays vote showed they speak for no one and represent no one. Thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people and the support and sacrifice of our friends, our country has taken a huge step towards a peaceful and democratic future and the whole world should rejoice.