UN And Iraqi Delegation Call For Occupation To End
UN envoy, Iraqi delegation call for swift restoration of sovereignty
The top United Nations envoy for Iraq and a member of the newly established Iraqi Governing Council both called today for a speedy end to the United States military occupation and the full restoration of the country’s sovereignty.
“There will need to be a clear timetable, laid out as soon as possible, for the earliest possible restoration of sovereignty,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, told an open session of the 15-member body as he presented Mr. Annan’s latest report on Iraq. “I have made this point before but it bears repetition. Iraqis need to know that the current state of affairs will come to an end soon. They need to know that stability will return and that the occupation will end.”
The head of a three-person delegation of the Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi, told the meeting the body’s primary goal was to shorten the duration of the interim administration, the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), in order to adopt a constitution and have free elections open to all.
As Mr. Pachachi was about to speak, two people in the public gallery got up and started to protest against the US occupation and the Governing Council. They were immediately escorted out of the chamber by UN security and were later identified as members of “Occupation Watch,” a San Francisco-based non-governmental organization.
Mr. Vieira de Mello endorsed the Governing Council as a valid partner for the UN. “We now have an institution that, while not democratically elected, can be viewed as broadly representative of the various constituencies in Iraq,” he said. “It means that we now have a formal body of senior and distinguished Iraqi counterparts, with credibility and authority, with whom we can chart the way forward.”
That body needed the support of the international community and the faith of the Iraqi people to succeed, the UN envoy stressed. “It must be empowered to deliver tangible improvements to the welfare of the population yet not bear the brunt of criticism for what remains the legal obligation of the CPA under the current situation,” he added. “This will be a difficult balancing act to manage.”
Mr. Vieira de Mello said that in his preliminary discussions with a wide array of Iraqis, they had unanimously called for an energetic, centre-stage role for the UN. A number of other consistent themes also emerged. They wanted to see themselves back at the helm of their country and wanted the arrival of security and of the rule of law.
“I believe we have reason to be optimistic for the future of Iraq,” he declared. “But we have little margin for error. The situation remains fragile. Iraqis know best how and where to tread in their own country. And at what pace. Our greatest contribution will be in following their lead and, when necessary, assisting them in achieving consensus among themselves.”
For his part, Mr. Pachachi said Iraqis saw his participation in the Security Council session as recognition of Iraq’s sovereignty. A draft constitution to establish a federal system would be examined by a congress representing all political and religious groups, and the UN, given its experience, could help draw up laws and legislation for the election, he added.
Among the pressing issues facing the Governing Council, Mr. Pachachi noted, were the appointment of representatives to international organizations, including the UN, as well as rebuilding the economy, reforming the educational system and providing the basic needs of all citizens – in all of which the UN would have an important role to play.
It also intended to establish special tribunals to bring members of the former regime to trial for crimes against the Iraqi people and humanitarian crimes, he added.
Mr. Vieira de Mello said that given the gravity of the crimes in question he believed there was much merit in considering the establishment of a mixed Iraqi and international panel of experts to consider in detail the options that would best suit Iraq.