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UN Official Urges Neighbours To Support Iraq

UN's top political official urges neighbours to support Iraq

22 April 2008 - The United Nations political chief today urged further dialogue and stronger support by Iraq's neighbours for stabilizing the strife-torn country, including through the opening of embassies in Baghdad.

"The support of neighbouring countries is essential for the stability of Iraq," Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told a ministerial meeting of Iraq and its neighbours in Kuwait today, the third meeting of its kind since last year focusing on issues such as energy, refugees and border security.

Addressing the gathering on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Pascoe said the opening of embassies would be "a very positive step."

Mr. Pascoe also described stepped-up UN efforts to help the Government and people of Iraq through the work of the UN Assistance Mission there, known as UNAMI, which he visited over the weekend before arriving in Kuwait.

The UN is helping Iraq with political dialogue, the resolution of internal territorial disputes, the holding of governorate elections later this year and the review of Iraq's constitution.

"Even though violence, political tensions and slow socio-economic progress persist, the institutions set up in Iraq in 2005 through democratic elections and a constitutional referendum are progressively taking root," Mr. Pascoe stated.

"A fundamental consensus on a democratic, sovereign, united and federal Iraq is emerging. Nevertheless, despite continuing improvements in the capacity of Iraq's national security forces, the security situation still remains fragile," he added.

The Under-Secretary-General also highlighted the need to focus on alleviating the suffering of Iraq's refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), "not only on humanitarian grounds, but also because it has regional repercussions."

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that out of a total population of 26 million, some 4.4 million Iraqis are still uprooted, including 2.4 million displaced inside Iraq and 2 million outside - mainly in Syria and Jordan.

"We believe that together with the Government of Iraq, and the wider international community, the United Nations can help host countries, particularly Jordan and Syria, with humanitarian and technical assistance," Mr. Pascoe said, adding that the world body is also developing a programme for refugee return to ensure that the Iraqi Government and agencies are ready when the conditions are ripe for this to take place.

Meanwhile, on the margins of the Kuwait meeting, a number of concerned countries, along with officials from the UN, Arab League and European Union, met as the "Friends of Lebanon" to discuss the situation in that country.

The group ended their meeting with a joint statement, stating that they are deeply dismayed at the ongoing political stalemate in Lebanon, and calling for the immediate election of the consensual candidate, General Michel Suleiman, as President without prior conditions.

Representing the Secretary-General at that meeting was his Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, Terje Roed-Larsen.

Resolution 1559, adopted by the Council in 2004, calls for free and fair presidential elections in Lebanon without interference from foreign influences and for the disbandment of all militia groups operating in the country.

ENDS

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