SAMAWA, Iraq - More than 500 Islamic tribal leaders gathered in Samawa to discuss upcoming Iraqi elections and issues affecting their tribes July 16.

"This is the spirit of democracy that is encouraging progress throughout Muthanna and Iraq," said Paul O'Friel, a provincial reconstruction team leader operating in the region.

Sheikh Hakim Khazl led the meeting under a theme of "free and fair elections," where he proposed introducing United Nations electoral monitors to validate upcoming elections.

"We are honored to be invited to such an event and witness first-hand Iraqi people's moving forward toward a truly democratic country," said Lt. Col. Scott Kendrick, the commander of the 2nd Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

The sheikhs discussed short falls in the election system in Iraq and agree there is a vital need to hold the national government accountable to the people. The sheikhs' tribes are gathering, organizing and developing strategies for peaceful and democratic elections scheduled this fall.

The 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div., Long Knife Brigade, is providing oversight and aid to the Iraqi Security Forces in the region.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16