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Iraq at a ‘very crucial’ time; could escalate

Iraq at a ‘very crucial’ time; no civil war but conflict could escalate: UN envoy

Saying that Iraq is at a “very crucial” time, the top United Nations envoy for the strife-torn country said today that while there is no civil war, the situation could descend into “ungovernability” unless all Iraqis come together in the political process.

Speaking to the press a day after he briefed the Security Council, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Iraq, called the situation “very worrying, particularly after the Samarra incident,” referring to the February bombing of a major Shiite shrine.

“We certainly have a low grade, vicious sectarian conflict…I wouldn’t go to the extent of characterising the situation as a civil war, people might say that unless the situation is brought under control there could be a progressive descent into some kind of ungovernability,” he said.

“Iraq is at a very crucial time and the Iraqi people have to come together to address the challenges that confront them and really to address them within a national context.

“People are what they are nationally, they also have their local identities – be they sectarian, or be they ethnic, or be they regional or whatever – all of that is fairly natural but for a country to successfully transition a process such as Iraq is doing right now, it’s extraordinarily important for them to keep that national focus,” Mr. Qazi added.

He again emphasized the importance of forming a Government in Iraq that represents all sections of society, repeating a point he made yesterday in remarks to the Security Council when he introduced Mr. Annan’s report on the country.

“The urgency to form a broad-based Government, or a Government of National Unity, as early as possible in view of these challenges is absolutely essential,” he told reporters, adding that “the situation has to be treated so that it becomes less fragile.”

Yesterday Mr. Qazi told the Security Council 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.

He also said 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.

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