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Cycle Of Violence Undermines Iraq Reconstruction

'Vicious Cycle Of Violence' Undermining Un Efforts To Rebuild Iraq - Top Envoy

Noting that the "vicious cycle of violence" was continuing even as he addressed the Security Council today, the top United Nations envoy for Iraq warned that lack of security was halting efforts to rebuild the country and undermining the world body's efforts to assist in elections set for January.

"The tragic human dimension of the current situation in Iraq was brought home to all of us today, with almost 50 people losing their lives in yet another bombing," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Iraq Ashraf Qazi said of the blast that tore through a crowded market near Baghdad police headquarters.

"It is a sign of the resurgence of the vicious cycle of violence that is halting the process of rebuilding the country. Improving the security situation is a collective responsibility that we all share."

Delivering Mr. Annan's latest report, Mr. Qazi noted the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) is committed to actively support Iraq's Election Commission in administering and monitoring a fair and credible electoral process. But, he warned the Council, "the extent and scale of UNAMI activity in this regard will necessarily be determined by prevailing circumstances including the security environment."

He stressed that for many Iraqis, UNAMI's involvement with the political and electoral processes was a sine qua non for their credibility and effectiveness, but the current security environment was far from conducive to the deployment of UNAMI international staff to Iraq, except in minimal numbers.

"As Head of UNAMI and Designated Official for the security of the mission personnel, both national and international, security has to be my paramount if not exclusive concern and obligation," he said. "It has to be the key operating principle."

In his report Mr. Annan says international staff in Iraq are "operating at the outer limit of acceptable and prudent risk" and he warns that UN presence on the ground is limited because of insecurity until further notice. Most international staff were withdrawn last year after a terrorist bomb ripped though UN offices in Baghdad, killing Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others.

"With the deployment of UNAMI to Baghdad, the Blue Flag is once more flying in Iraq albeit, necessarily, in the Green or International Zone. Iraqi expectations of UNAMI are high," Mr. Qazi said, yet again stressing the security aspect.

"It is crucial that the necessary logistical and security arrangements for our operations be finalized as soon as possible," he declared, noting that the UN was making every effort to support the efforts of the United States-led multinational force in this regard, as well as to generate UNAMI's own internal security capacity.

"It is important, however, that the distinct entity of the multinational force mandated by this Council to provide security for our presence in Iraq should be identified or deployed immediately prior to the deployment of UNAMI guard units," he added.

The continuing violence was also having an adverse effect on achieving inclusiveness in the political and electoral process, Mr. Qazi warned, noting that inducing significant political groups who chose not to attend last month's National Conference to participate should be a matter of high priority for the Iraqi government.

"This will not be an easy undertaking as the recent violence in Najaf and Kufa and the current violence in Baghdad, Falluja, Ramadi, Samarra, Mosul, etc. amply demonstrate," he said. "The transition process is fragile."

But Mr. Qazi also expressed his confidence in the Iraqi people. "The people of Iraq desperately want peace and to be masters in their own country," he declared. "They have the talent and the will to peaceably persevere on the path towards these objectives. They see an effective UN role as critical to the realization of their hopes."

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