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UN supports Arab League work, Iraqi reconciliation

Annan lauds Arab League meeting seeking Iraqi reconciliation, vows UN support

Praising the Arab League for holding a preparatory meeting of Iraqi factions in Cairo over the weekend to pave the way towards national reconciliation in the strife-torn country, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today pledged continued United Nations support for a full-blown conference to achieve the goal.

"The Secretary-General commends the League of Arab States for the holding of the Preparatory Meeting for the Conference on Iraqi National Accord," Mr. Annan said in a statement issued by his spokesman.

"The Secretary-General is pleased that the meeting was attended by a broad range of representatives of Iraq's different communities, who seized the opportunity to discuss national reconciliation and the future of their country," the statement added.

"The Secretary-General has asked his Special Representative to continue to work closely with the League and with the Iraqi Government in the preparations for the proposed Conference."

Special Representative Ashraf Qazi attended the Cairo meeting and delivered a message from Mr. Annan in which the Secretary-General declared that regional initiatives have a "crucial role to play in nurturing broad national dialogue and reconciliation in Iraq, in full respect of Iraq's national sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence."

Mr. Annan later told journalists that he had found strong support during his travels last week through the Middle East and North Africa for the Arab League initiative.

In Iraq's capital, Baghdad, "I saw the President, the Vice President, the Acting President. I saw the Sunni parties and spoke to all the groups and the Kurdish leaders, as well. We focused on the elections and the need for reconciliation because I do believe that unless they reconcile and find a way for uniting, the elections will not solve the problem, nor will military efforts solve the problem. I think that it is in this spirit that the Arab initiative is so important," he said at an informal press encounter.

Mr. Annan said wherever he went during his trip, there was strong support for the initiative from leaders including President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah of Jordan, the Prime Minister of Kuwait and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria and leaders in Tunisia "and I think the Iraqi parties should work with them."

The Iraqis had complained for a long time that the Arab region and Middle East have been aloof, he said. "Now they have come up with a proposal and I would urge them to work with them."

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