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UN steps up political assistance to Iraqis

Amid ongoing insecurity, UN steps up political assistance to Iraqis

As lack of security continues to cause deep concern among United Nations humanitarian agencies in Iraq, while not as yet hampering their efforts, the world body is stepping up its political assistance to the new Iraqi Governing Council in writing a new constitution and holding elections.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, yesterday addressed the Council for the first time since its inauguration and highlighted the areas where the UN could assist without needing a specific Security Council mandate.

These included strengthening support for the secretariat of the Governing Council, and providing guidance in the development of a new constitution or new human rights institutions based on extensive previous UN experiences in these areas.

A team from the UN Department of Political Affairs is due to arrive shortly to discuss with Mr. Vieira de Mello, the United States-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and “most importantly the Governing Council,” how they might be of assistance if the Iraqis want guidance in such matters as preparing electoral rolls and registering political, spokesman Salim Lone told a briefing in Baghdad today.

Although it was appointed by the CPA, Mr. Vieira de Mello has endorsed the Governing Council as a valid partner for the UN, saying that while not democratically elected it “can be viewed as broadly representative of the various constituencies in Iraq.”

On Saturday, the UN envoy leaves on his second regional trip to visit Kuwait and Turkey as part of his efforts to consult with a full spectrum of Iraqi and neighbouring leaders on reconstructing the country. Earlier this month he visited Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI) said the security situation remains tense with an increase in anti-coalition attacks, the hijacking of humanitarian trucks and the closure of two highways south of Baghdad to humanitarian traffic since 22 July.

“UN agencies have been voicing their concerns about the level of insecurity, particularly in a stretch of road south of Nassriyah, were WFP (UN World Food Programme) contractors reportedly had 18 trucks hijacked,” spokesperson Veronique Taveau told the briefing. “The trucks are later sold for $6,000. These incidents have not yet hampered our efforts but they are of deep concern and could discourage commercial transporters from sending more trucks into trouble spots in Iraq.”

Truckloads of relief supplies destined for returning refugees arrived in southern Iraq today as aid workers from the UN refugee agency prepared to receive more repatriation convoys of Iraqis coming home after years spent in remote desert camps.

In all, 48 trucks were dispatched this week from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regional warehouse in Jordan. In addition to the stocks going to Basra, tens of thousands of items are being sent to Baghdad.

The first UN-assisted convoy of refugees to come back to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein reached Basra yesterday after travelling from Rafha refugee camp in the remote northern reaches of Saudi Arabia.


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