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UN: Iraqis must make decisions that affect them

Iraqis themselves must make the decisions that affect them - UN envoy

Reiterating that it was vital that the Iraqis themselves make all decisions affecting them, United Nations envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello today continued wide-ranging consultations with a full spectrum of the country's society, meeting with a group of eminent jurists to discuss reform of the justice system.

A day after he gave his first major press conference since arriving three weeks ago, repeatedly stressing that the UN will do all it can to help Iraq move as quickly as possible towards running its own affairs, Mr. Vieira de Mello also met with members of the United States-run interim administration, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

The session with the jurists focussed on lessons learned from UN experiences in post conflict countries, and on Iraqi perspectives. General (Judge) Campbell, Head of the Justice Section at the CPA attended, giving a presentation on its activities in this area. The Iraqis asked Mr. Vieira de Mello to continue this dialogue and support them in developing their own vision on justice reform.

The envoy later met with the chief British representative in the CPA, Ambassador John Sawers, discussing the security situation in general as well as the killing yesterday of six British soldiers and the wounding of eight more in attacks in southern Iraq. They also reviewed the CPA's current efforts in the political track, which is intended to lead to the formation of a political advisory council, followed by a constitutional convention.

In his news conference yesterday, Mr. Vieira de Mello, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, explained that his first priority had been to speak with and listen to as many Iraqis as possible to find out what they wanted for themselves.

"It is their country, after all and they should run it," he said. "And it will be vital to the success of the international community in Iraq that Iraqis have ownership of all decisions made affecting them. This is and will remain axiomatic for the UN in Iraq for us as long as we are here."

He added that there had been no clashes with the CPA and there need be no clash "as long as we have the same objective, which is to serve the Iraqi people." The CPA had listened "very carefully to our views, again based on what the Iraqis have told us" on such issues as the constitutional process, elections, a census, the electoral system and political parties.

"These are all questions that the United Nations has experienced and I would say has a good record in recent years," he said. "And based on the opinion of the Iraqis these are probably areas in which they, the Iraqis, would want the UN to play a very active, objective, supportive role, never in substitution for them."

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