Sunni Politician Discusses Pro-Constitution Vote

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Steve Inskeep talks with the speaker of Iraq's transitional National Assembly, Hajam al-Hasani, about last weekend's referendum vote. While many Sunni Muslims voted against the constitution, al-Hasani is a Sunni Muslim who voted in favor of it.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The constitution that Iraq voted on last weekend was intended to do more than just set up a government. It was also meant to bring more Iraqis into the political process, especially Sunni Muslims. Many members of that minority group have supported the insurgency. To get one perspective on whether the vote will change Iraq, we contacted Hajim al-Hasani. He is speaker of Iraq's transitional National Assembly, and he is a Sunni Muslim who voted in favor of the constitution, even though he knows many of his fellow Sunnis voted against it.

Dr. HAJIM al-HASANI (Speaker, Iraq's Transitional National Assembly): Well, let me tell you something. I think all sects and layers of Iraqi people, they went to the polls. That's very important. It doesn't matter whether they're going to say yes or no. What matters, you know, they follow democratic ways in making the changes in Iraq.

INKSEEP: Which leads to the next question. Do you think that Sunni Muslims who participated in large numbers will remain inside the political process?

Dr. al-HASANI: I think the determination is there. I talked to many of them. They are still insisting that they will participate in a major way in the next election. I think right now they realize that the best way, you know, for them to be part of the change in the country is to be in the political process.

INKSEEP: There was an election, as you know, in January in Iraq. It was declared a success and, then after the election, the insurgent violence increased once again. What do you expect to happen in the aftermath of this vote?

Dr. al-HASANI: Well, the violence, it doesn't depend on what the results of election--anymore to be. I think it depends on what we're going to do, you know, after the next government, how it's going to approach Iraq's problems. Because major insurgency in Iraq in my belief is because of the economic reasons. There are no jobs out there, so that gives the opportunity for the terrorists to use these people as resources.

INKSEEP: Mr. Speaker, is it fair to say that there are still huge differences between Sunni Muslims, Kurds and Shiite Muslims as to how to proceed, how to put this country together, how to make everyone feel that their rights are protected?

Dr. al-HASANI: Well, if you look at the differences, you will end up with no differences. You expect that, you know, one will look at the other that--you know, the other is planning to divide the country. But when you work with the Shiite groups and the others, you feel that everybody wants, you know, this country to stay together.

INKSEEP: Are you saying you really believe that most people want the same thing in Iraq? It's just a matter of getting over people's suspicions of one another?

Dr. al-HASANI: Absolutely. That's wh--how--You know, when I talk to the people--normal, simple people in Iraq, they want Iraq to stay a unified country. They want a good democratic, you know, government in Iraq. That's what people want. So, yes, I do agree, you know. All Iraqis, they want the same thing, but they don't know how to get that thing.

INKSEEP: We've been talking to Dr. Hajim al-Hasani. He is speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly. Mr. Speaker, thanks very much.

Dr. al-HASANI: Thank you very much.

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