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Iraq: UN calls on leaders to step back from brink

Iraq: UN calls on leaders to step back from brink, deplores civilian deaths

The United Nations has strongly condemned the continuing violent attacks in Iraq which are taking an ever-increasing number of civilian lives, particularly those of innocent children, and appealed to the country’s leaders to step back from the brink.

“This brutal violence that takes innocent lives, especially those of children, is totally unacceptable,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Ashraf Qazi said.

“It is important and necessary that all parties, including the Government, adhere to and respect international humanitarian law and are perceived by the population as doing so,” he added. “As Iraqis attempt to rebuild their country, callous acts of violence without regard to possible victims only serve to further intensify and prolong the pervasive sense of insecurity, uncertainty and fear.”

There is no official estimate of the number of Iraqi children who have died as a result of the violence recently but figures for civilians made public by a number of sources, such as Iraq Body Count, Brookings Institute, People's Kifah, and the UK Lancet, are all too high.

One incident on 15 February in Baghdad highlights the terrible crime that such violence represents - three Iraqi children were killed by a bomb on their way to school.

“This type of incident creates fear in the hearts of all families,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Special Representative for Iraq Roger Wright said.

“In addition to being afraid your child may never return home from school, just imagine how traumatized children who witness all this violence become. These are the Iraqi civilians and leaders of tomorrow. They must be allowed to grow up and develop in an environment of care and respect, not constant concern and anxiety.

“Enough is enough: it’s high time to put Iraqi children first – on everyone’s agenda,” he stressed.

Mr. Qazi noted that scores of people had been killed since a curfew was lifted in four governorates on Monday, and places of worship continued to be targeted. Hundreds are estimated to have lost their lives since the attack on a Shiite Shrine last week.

“I am encouraged by the positive measures announced by the Iraq Government in reaction to the crisis,” he said. “However, despite the constructive response, the situation threatens to further deteriorate. Accordingly, I call upon the leaders of Iraq to intensify their efforts to adopt measures to stop the violence and promote national accord.

“The United Nations stands ready to actively assist in this crucial endeavour and will continue to meet with community, religious, and political leaders to ensure the country steadfastly turns away from the brink,” he added.

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