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Top envoy hears calls for greater UN role in Iraq

Top envoy hears more calls for greater UN role in Iraq

As part of his continuing efforts to consult with a full spectrum of Iraqi society, United Nations envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello made his fourth trip outside Baghdad today, visiting the city of Hilla where local leaders called for the UN to play a larger role in the country's affairs.

Governor Iskandar Jawad Witwit of the Governorate of Babylon, of which Hilla is the major city, asked Mr. Vieira de Mello, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, to play a larger role since the people of Iraq trusted the UN as a neutral party.

Sayyid Farqad Qazwini, a ranking clergyman at the Religious University of Hilla suggested that the UN should be a third party running the country's affairs, together with Iraqis and the United States-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

Mr. Qazwini told Mr. Vieira de Mello that the UN was the trusted party in Iraq and should undertake the responsibility of sealing off the country's borders. As long as the borders are wide open, alien elements will enter the country with their own agenda and their own interest, he added.

On the humanitarian front, the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) told a briefing it would start a program with international non-governmental organizations and local women's groups to create an environment promoting equal participation for women in political and economic governance at local, regional and national levels.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that its largest delivery of medical supplies in a single trip since the end of the war arrived in Baghdad earlier this week. The 40-truck convoy carried 500 tons of insulin, intravenous fluid, antiseptics and other supplies intended to last until the end of August.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it would start registering 80,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq by the beginning of next month in order to provide them with documents as a first measure of protection.

Meanwhile, 5.5 million Iraqi children completed their year-end exams in an exercise aided by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). Given the prevailing conditions, this can be considered as a major achievement, both for the children and their families as well as for the Iraqi Ministry of Education and UNICEF, agency spokesman Geoffrey Keele said.

UNICEF's support included the printing and delivering of 15 million exam booklets, stationery and pens across the country. It also provided computers and photocopiers and produced radio and TV campaigns to get the children back to school in time for the exams.


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