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UN Envoy finds support for reconstruction of Iraq

In Egypt, UN envoy to Baghdad finds support for reconstruction of Iraq

The top United Nations envoy to Baghdad today held talks in Cairo with senior Egyptian officials who expressed support for the world body's role in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Following a meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, Sergio Vieira de Mello told a press conference that they had discussed "what Egypt can do to reinforce the role of the United Nations, which is one of Egypt's priorities, as well as assist the people of Iraq and the governing council of Iraq that manage this extremely difficult and painful transition that the Iraqi people are going through."

The envoy, who is currently touring a number of countries in the region, said he aimed to provide "an impartial, an independent assessment of the situation in Iraq."

Asked to evaluate the response of neighbouring States, Mr. Vieira de Mello said it had been "extremely positive," citing "unanimous support for a central role of the United Nations in this transition and beyond."

Iraq's neighbours, he added, "see the UN playing a supportive role in political terms but also in the reconstruction of? democratic institutions respectful of the human rights of the Iraqi people," who currently face widespread lawlessness.

Insecurity, he pointed out, was "further aggravated by the decision Saddam Hussein took in October of last year of emptying his prisons ? obviously not of political prisoners ? of common law criminals, so what you have is tens of thousands of criminals on the loose in Iraq and particularly in large urban areas." Those people, he noted, "are responsible for attacks against women, for robbery, for assassinations."

"It will take time to resolve this problem," he stressed, "because you know as I do that the Iraqi police has collapsed ? it was ineffective anyway ? and a new security force needs to be created and this does not happen in a matter of weeks."

Emphasizing the UN's impartial stance, he said, "the mandate we have from the Security Council is to assert the independent role of the Untied Nations, and all Iraqis will tell you that this is exactly what we have been doing."

Relations with Washington have been "good, at the working level, from day one," the envoy replied to a question. "Security Council resolution 1483 requires the UN to cooperate with the coalition authority, and that is what we have done, with one single purpose in mind, which are the interests of the Iraqi people and the need to bring the occupation of Iraq to an end as quickly as possible and the full restoration of Iraqi sovereignty and dignity as quickly as possible."

On the political process, he noted the need to organize democratic elections sometime in 2004. "We already have an electoral team in Iraq as we speak, they will be there at the disposal of all Iraqi political parties, of all the members of the Iraqi governing council, and beyond, and very soon we will start helping the Iraqis prepare those elections," he said. "[W]e are already playing that central role because it is out of these elections that a legitimate, democratic and internationally recognized government will emerge."

While in Cairo, Mr. Vieira de Mello was also scheduled to hold talks with President Hosni Mubarak and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.


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