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Iraq: UN press for national govt, meet Shiite

Pressing for national unity government in Iraq, UN envoy meets top Shiite cleric

Continuing his efforts to tamp down rising sectarian violence, the top United Nations envoy in Iraq today discussed the need to form a government of national unity as soon as possible with the war-torn country’s leading Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Ashraf Qazi met with Mr. Al-Sistani in the Muslim Shiite holy city of Najaf for one the periodic discussions he had held with the cleric over the past year.

“Mr. Qazi focused on the need for political leaders to form a government of national unity as soon as possible in order to redress the problems of instability, insecurity, inadequate public services and unemployment in Iraq,” the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said in a statement on the talks, which came a day after the envoy issued a new public call for the speedy formation of a national unity government.

“He stressed the responsibility of all political, religious and community leaders to work together in creating an environment in which sectarian tensions could be reduced and a genuine political settlement reached. Mr. Qazi welcomed Grand Ayatollah’s advice and support on these important issues,” it added.

Yesterday Mr. Qazi called on all religious, political and community leaders to ensure restraint by their followers and to refrain from sheltering those who have engaged in criminal behaviour after prolonged violence in the Adhamiya quarter of Baghdad.

The envoy also met with the Governor of Najaf, As’ad Abu Gelal and stressed the importance of prioritizing humanitarian, reconstruction and development projects in the governorate.

He noted that adequate coordination with the central authorities in Baghdad was of critical importance to the success of such programmes and explained the work undertaken by UNAMI with the Ministry of Planning and Development Coordination to support both humanitarian and reconstruction/development projects throughout Iraq.

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