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Iraq: UN decries destruction of shrines

UN's top Iraq envoy decries destruction of shrines, urges national unity

In a strongly worded statement aimed at quelling violence in Iraq, the senior United Nations envoy to that country today decried recent sectarian attacks and urged a united front against those who are instigating them.

“Iraq is too precious to allow evil actions and evil persons to fan the flames of evil passions that daily claim the lives of innocent Iraqis,” said Ashraf Qazi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative in Baghdad. “All Iraqis must now come together in a spirit of fraternity and love to consider concrete measures to defeat the carefully prepared plans of those who are determined to create the conditions of civil war.”

Mr. Qazi deplored the recent attacks on Shiite religious sites. “The destruction of the Shrine of the Two Imams was a shocking tragedy. It was an act of sacrilege. It was an affront to all Muslims. It represented treachery against all Iraqis.”

He also sought to place the violence in its broader context, pointing out that it was “directed against the peace and unity, indeed the future, of Iraq.” The response has claimed the lives of many innocent Iraqis and their places of worship, he noted, adding: “This is a test for all the people of Iraq who have already faced so many severe tests.”

The envoy pledged that the UN, with the support of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), would establish a special reconstruction fund supported by the international community to fully restore the damaged Shrine of the Two Imams and other Mosques that were subsequently damaged.

The United Nations would also encourage and assist projects, including a national compact for the protection of human rights, that are designed to strengthen the bonds of mutual respect, understanding and harmony among all the communities of Iraq, he said. “Such projects could go a long way to ensure that the burdens of Iraq's past do not weigh upon the prospects of its future.”

While stressing that the UN “will always be ready to assist the noble people of Iraq who gave civilization to the world,” Mr. Qazi said ultimately “it will be for the Iraqi people themselves to determine the course of their future.”

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