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Iraq must strengthen political to quell violence

Iraq must strengthen political momentum to quell sectarian violence: UN envoy

Given the rampant sectarian violence in Iraq, particularly its explosion following the destruction of the Shia Shrine in Samarra, everything possible must now be done to help complete negotiations on a government responsive to the aspirations of all communities in the country, a top United Nations envoy said today.

“Recent developments have made negotiations on government formation more difficult,” Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the Special Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan for Iraq, told the Security Council in a public briefing.

“This has created a dangerous and elongated political vacuum,” he warned, calling for the Council’s support for a stronger political momentum to prevent the situation from deteriorated further.

Introducing Mr. Annan’s report to the Council, he noted that despite the enormous challenges Iraq has met all the technical benchmarks of its political transition envisaged by Council resolutions after Saddam Hussein’s regime was ousted by the United States-led invasion of 2003, given the recent national elections.

However, he said that sectarian fissures have come to dominate and almost define Iraqi politics and its future prospects, gravely threatening those accomplishments.

For that reason, Mr. Qazi said that his office and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) have stepped up their engagement with political, religious and civic leaders with a view to encouraging greater inter-communal understanding.

After earliest possible formation of a government, it was essential to conduct the mandated constitutional review in a way that created a national consensus on a strong framework for the Iraqi State, he said.

“UNAMI stands ready to provide any assistance that might be necessary for the formation of an inclusive government and is fully engaged with Iraqi leaders to support the constitutional review and the effective implementation of the constitution,” he said.

As underlined by Mr. Annan’s report, Mr. Qazi also stressed that, while political facilitation remains UNAMI’s priority in 2006, activities will also be strengthened in the key areas of reconstruction, development, humanitarian assistance and human rights.

Action on human rights is particularly crucial, he said. While the Government has taken initial steps, more determined measures are necessary, he said, particularly with regard to the de facto arbitrary detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings.”

If a more robust role is expected of the UN in the next phase of Iraq’s transition, however, greater mobility, flexibility and – above all – security for its personnel is essential, he underlined.

Speaking on behalf of the Multinational Force, United States Ambassador John Bolton said the Force will continue to provide security for the UN, noting that UNAMI had made essential contributions to Iraqi progress, particularly to the elections and the formation of the Government.

The representative of Iraq, Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, requested an increase in the number of UNAMI staff as the constitutional phase of the political process unfolded. “In a very real sense, the work of reconstructing Iraq’s political institutions is only now beginning, and the United Nations has much to offer in this respect,” he said.

He stressed the Government’s ability to fully implement its human rights agenda has been severely hampered by the security situation, though it had taken many steps in that direction.

The goal of the shrine attack was to foment civil war, he affirmed. “Yet Iraqis from across confessional, ethnic and political lines stand united in their horror and condemnation of such attacks,” he said.

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