Repressive Arab regimes call on Iraqis to vote for freedom
Prince Saud said that the coming elections would help ensure that all ethnic and religious groups could be treated fairly and equally in Iraq. "Fortunately, we don't have to worry about treating citizens from other religious groups fairly in Saudi Arabia - only Muslims are allowed to be citizens. So we treat all our citizens fairly and equally - unless of course, you're a woman."
"These elections are a chance for the Iraqis to express
their beliefs and opinions, and exercise their human right to freedom of
speech," Prince Saud added. "We have complete freedom of speech here in
Saudi Arabia - what happens to you after you speak, now that's another
Ministers at the conference also pledged not to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs. "Kuwait believes that Iraq is a sovereign state and should be allowed to decide its own destiny without any outside pressure," Sheikh Sabah stressed. "And forget about those tens of thousands of US troops across the border in Kuwait - they're just there to do a bit of shopping and enjoy a bit of sun and sand."
President George W Bush also warned other countries against any attempt to influence the January 30 vote. "The Iraqi people will not tolerate any attempt to influence the electoral process by foreigners - and we have 150,000 American troops there to make sure that doesn't happen," Bush said.
In a related development, senior US State Department officials announced that independent international observers would monitor the Iraq vote, but from 500 miles away in Amman, Jordan. Observers from the seven nations involved said that the security situation in Iraq was out of control and it was too dangerous to physically monitor the voting in Iraq.
Election observers will be provided with very large binoculars and telescopes, and attempt to see if they can observe events in Baghdad from their hotel room balconies in Amman. "If this fails, we'll simply phone the US Embassy there and ask them what happened," said a representative for the observers. "We understand they have some elections experts from Ohio and Florida stationed there already."
"Despite the threat of insurgent bombings, we hope that the Iraqi people show their commitment to democracy by defying the insurgents and coming out in large numbers to vote," the observer said. "As for us, we’re not stupid, we're not going anywhere within a hundred miles of an Iraqi polling booth, no sir-ee, no way Jose."
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