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Attacks In Iraq Decrease But Progress Insufficient

Attacks in Iraq decrease but insufficient progress on political front, UN reports

Although attacks in Iraq have decreased, insecurity continues to severely limit the activities of the United Nations mission there, while the political situation has not improved as much as had been hoped, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report.

"Indiscriminate and targeted violence continued to claim civilian victims," Mr. Ban tells the Security Council in his latest report on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), covering the three months ending in December.

"Professionals, including journalists, lawyers, medical and educational staff and public administrators, as well as members of minority groups and women, continued to be targeted by various criminal groups," he writes.

While welcoming the reduction in the overall number of attacks - from a daily average of 200 in July and August to about 90 in the past three months - Mr. Ban notes that continued improvement depends on the engagement of the Iraqi Security Forces, the United States-led multinational force, the extension of a ceasefire by the Shiite Mahdi Army and developments relating to the Sunni "awakening councils" fighting extremists.

"However, mass casualty attacks on civilians, such as the triple car bombing in Amarah on 12 December and the series of attacks at the end of December are a sobering reminder that those using terrorism in pursuit of their political aims have no regard for human rights or human life," he warns.

In order to sustain recent improvements in security, Mr. Ban stresses the need for similar movement in the political arena, which he finds wanting. "To date, the political process has not shown the degree of progress that many had hoped for," he says, citing the continued stalemate in filling vacant Cabinet posts and lack of consensus in passing key legislation.

He pledges UNAMI's continued good office in encouraging Iraq's leaders to engage on core political disagreements. "I remain hopeful that this will result in a successful conclusion to the constitutional review process," he adds.

He cites as "perhaps the most encouraging development" the readiness recently shown by the central authorities in Baghdad and the leaders of the Kurdish region to cooperate together with UN Special Representative Staffan de Mistura to avoid further violence over the delay in a referendum over the city of Kirkuk and disputed internal boundaries.

On UNAMI's operational abilities Mr. Ban notes that while fire aimed at the international zone in Baghdad declined significantly, the security situation continues to severely limit daily activities, with personnel obliged to comply with curfews and curbs on movement.

He calls on Member States to provide an aircraft equipped with appropriate countermeasures for movement of UN staff into, out of and within Iraq. "This capability is considered critical for operational purposes," he says, also urging countries that have not yet done so to contribute funds for UNAMI's security and logistical needs.

He also notes that the Mission recently sent a team to establish a presence in Basra in the south and will also expand its office in Arbil, in the Kurdish region, to assist displaced persons, to help resurrect electricity networks, construct primary health centres and carry out polio immunizations. Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) will work with the Central Government to feed 750,000 displaced people over the next 12 months.

On human rights, Mr. Ban notes continued reports implicating private security companies in the killing of civilians or bystanders, allegedly in self-defence. He also cites the prolonged detention of prisoners without judicial oversight and with limited or no access to legal counsel.


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