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Head Of Local Company Building Iraqi Government Remains Optimistic

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RALEIGH, N.C. — As the violence in Iraq picks up, there are calls to delay the upcoming national election, set for Jan. 30.

But not everyone believes that would be a good idea.

The Triangle man heading the effort to rebuild Iraq thinks the show must go on.

As interim leaders have taken over on national level in Iraq, Research Triangle Institute developed government at the local level.

From neighborhood committees to city councils, the Research Triangle Park-based company helped build the foundation that enabled the transfer of power last June.

"It's no longer an occupation," said Ron Johnson, vice president of RTI. "The Iraqis are governing themselves and many places are doing a good job of it."

Johnson says many cities and towns already held local elections, preparing Iraqis to choose a new national leader at the end of the month.

"I think the Iraqis are more than ready," Johnson said. "The real question is how much will the violence disrupt or prevent participation."

Violent attacks have intensified as the election moves closer. Still, Johnson doesn't believe it would be wise to delay it.

"The conditions are never going to be perfect," Johnson said.

Johnson says a national election is the next step toward a free and democratic society.

But while Johnson is optimistic about Iraq's future, RTI's future in that country is not so clear.

It's contract to be there is about to expire. Johnson hopes it will be extended for another year.

"A lot has been accomplished already and more could be accomplished," Johnson said.

The question is, will RTI be there to see it through. No word on how many other firms may have been on the contract.

RTI hopes to hear something before its agreement expires at the end of March.


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