Candidates supported by Iraq's most senior Shiite Muslim (search) cleric said Saturday they have no intention of setting up an Islamic state if they win this month's national election and instead will work to improve security, the economy and public services.
National Security Adviser Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie (search) said the elections will be "between democratic forces in Iraq and antidemocratic forces of Iraq" rather than between different religious and ethnic communities.
"That is the issue," he said. "The issue is who do you want to obey — Saddam Hussein, Usama bin Laden ... or the Iraqi people."
Al-Rubaie said there "is no intention or plan to forming an Islamic or religious state in Iraq or a Shiite state ... or an Iranian style government."
On Jan. 30, Iraqis are scheduled to vote for a 275-member National Assembly which will appoint a new government and write the country's constitution. The United Iraqi Alliance (search), endorsed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is expected to fare best among the 220 parties and political blocs.
The Alliance list of candidates includes 32 Sunni Muslims.
Most Shiites are expected to vote but many Sunni Arab Muslims are likely to boycott the elections. Sunni Muslim clerics have said elections should not take place under foreign military occupation, and bin Laden has warned that Iraqis who take part in the elections "will be considered infidels."
Tribal leader, Sheik Fawaz al-Jarbi, a Sunni member of the list, insisted that many Sunnis will ignore the boycott calls.
A prominent Shiite politician, Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Islamic Dawa Party, said the Shiite leadership "wants to build a new Iraq."
"Our main aims are to achieve self-sufficiency in security so that we can manage without the multinational forces, build the economy and improve people's standard of living and services," he told reporters.
Another Shiite candidate, Ahmad Chalabi, said he hoped the election would take place so that the new government can "restore sovereignty," establish security and "give the people their rights in the economy."
Chalabi said he planned to meet with "some very significant" Sunni tribal and community leaders to urge them to support the election.
"I believe that this impression that the Sunnis will not vote will be dispelled quickly," he said. "They will vote."