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UN: Annan Travels to Baghdad To Express Solidarity

UN Secretary-General Travels to Baghdad To Express Solidarity With Iraq

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Iraq this morning for a one-day visit to the capital, Baghdad, where he met with a number of top Iraqi leaders and the staff of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) while voicing support for an Arab League conference on the troubled country.

Speaking to reporters, he stressed the importance of Iraq's political transition, and said the process must be inclusive and transparent, taking into account the concerns of all groups.

Mr. Annan also backed the Arab League's plans to arrange a reconciliation conference. "Obviously, it will have to be very carefully prepared, and we support that initiative," he said.

He also addressed the pressing issue of terrorism, the effects of which he witnessed first-hand during a visit earlier this week to Jordan. "I understand that today there has been a bomb [attack] in Baghdad where five people have died. We also know what happened in Amman a few days ago and I'm afraid we have not seen the end yet," he said.

"This behaviour, this terrorism, this brutal behaviour, is absolutely unacceptable behaviour. No ideology, no cause can justify the killings or maiming of innocent civilians. It is murder. It is terrorism pure and simple."

While in Baghdad, he met separately with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Deputy Prime Minister Rowsh Shaways as well as other political leaders and community officials.

In a town hall meeting with national and international UN staff he expressed thanks for the crucial work they are doing, under very trying circumstances, in assisting the Iraqi people during this period of political transition and reconstruction.

The UN team members "are doing an extraordinary job in very difficult circumstances," he told reporters, adding: "They have good morale and they are working hard and are determined to continue their work."

Responding to questions, the Secretary-General said he had visited the monument erected "for my dear friends and colleagues who died here in August 2003" when terrorists bombed the UN headquarters, killing 22 people. "Great friends, wonderful colleagues, the best of the United Nations who had come to help. That was their sole purpose. They carried no guns, they were not soldiers, they had not come to harm anyone. Their lives were cut short in a brutal manner."

He added that the best way to honour their memory is to "continue with our work and will do whatever we can to stabilize Iraq and to bring peace and prosperity."

The Secretary-General recalled that the UN has been supporting Iraq through its political transition since the creation of the Governing Council, running through the first elections, the preparation of the electoral law, the referendum, "and now we are working with them on the elections in December."

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