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[casi] Iraq Christian Assyrians want own administrative region

      26 Oct 2003 17:57 GMT DJ

      Iraq Christian Assyrians Hold 1st Conference In Baghdad

      Copyright  2003, Dow Jones Newswires

      DAMASCUS (AP)--Iraq's long-oppressed Christian Assyrian minority held
its first ever conference in Baghdad, made possible by the collapse of
Saddam Hussein's regime, a statement issued at the end of the conference

      "The conference came under circumstances during which our
(Chaldean-Assyrian) people are looking forward to a new dawn after the
removal of (Saddam's) regime and to an era in which freedom, democracy,
human dignity and the homeland's independence and sovereignty are achieved,"
said the statement, faxed to The Associated Press office in Damascus.

      More than 500 people, followers of Assyrian, Orthodox Syriac, Chaldean
and Maronite churches from around the globe came to Baghdad to attend the
Oct. 22-24 conference, held under the auspices of Ayad Allawi, the president
of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, according to the statement.

      The conference, organized by the Iraqi Assyrian Democratic Movement
and the Syrian Assyrian Democratic Organization, called on the international
community and Iraq's neighbors to help Iraq achieve security, stability and
restore its independence and sovereignty.

      The conference also called for building a pluralistic Iraqi regime
that "respects all ethnic groups and religions" in the country, according to
the statement.

      The statement stressed the need for Iraq's one million
Chaldean-Assyrians to be given "an administrative region in the Nineveh
plateau" - the place where the ancient Assyrian capital stood 3,000 years
ago - and their "political, religious and cultural rights in the rest of

      "The conference stressed that Chaldean-Assyrians be recognized as the
indigenous people of Iraq on basis of equality with all other ethnic
groups," the statement said.

      One member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council in Iraq, Younadem
Kana, is Assyrian Christian.

      The zenith of the Assyrian empire was between the 9th and 7th
centuries B.C., when it stretched from the Gulf through modern-day Iraq,
Syria and Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea.

      In 1933, the then Iraqi government massacred around 5000 Assyrians in
Semele, a town in northern Iraq. Since the secular Iraqi Baath Party took
power in Iraq in 1968, Chaldean-Assyrians were referred to as Arab

      The three-day conference called for including Syriac, a modern version
of Aramaic - the language Jesus Christ is believed to have spoken, in any
future Iraqi constitution.

      Participants, politicians and intellectuals, came from Syria, Lebanon,
Iraq and as far as Europe, the U.S., New Zealand, Canada and Australia,
according to the statement.

      (END) Dow Jones Newswires

      October 26, 2003 12:57 ET (17:57 GMT)

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