Annan invites Iraqis to exercise democratic rights

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Saturday, January 29, 2005 With just days to go before Sunday's historic poll to choose a new government in Iraq, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has invited the people of Iraq to exercise their democratic rights.

The poll, the first free elections in a generation, faces disruption from insurgents who are totally opposed to democracy. Annan warned them not to interfere and promised continuing help from the UN for the country in the future.

Annan made his appeal in a pre-recorded message, broadcast on TV inside Iraq. "Elections are the best way to determine any country's future; please exercise your democratic rights on Sunday," he said. "Whatever your feelings about how the country reached this point, this election offers an opportunity to move away from violence and uncertainty toward peace and representative government."

The UN has been providing advice and technical help to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), as well as $100m funding for the poll and co-ordination of international assistance. A team of 40 experts has overseen the delivery of three million tonnes of election materials and helped the IECI and Iraqi officials prepare and maintain the voters register.

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