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Annan Urges Iraqis To Vote Peacefully

Annan Urges Iraqis To Vote Peacefully As First Step Towards Building Democracy

On the eve of Iraq’s elections, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged the country’s people to go to the polls in a peaceful manner and pledged the world body’s support.

Addressing Iraqis directly, Mr. Annan encouraged them “to turn out and exercise your democratic right to vote as a first step towards building together a stable, united and prosperous Iraq.”

He also issued an appeal to all to refrain from violence or any other action which might undermine the democratic process.

“Ultimately, only you as a people can move Iraq forward,” Mr. Annan said, voicing satisfaction that the UN has been able to support every step of this process, including assistance to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. “Irrespective of the outcome of the election, the United Nations will continue to do all it can to help all Iraqis succeed in building a new Iraq,” he pledged.

This message was echoed at the Security Council, where Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari paid tribute to the people of Iraq and urged them to vote. “To have kept this process on track under very difficult conditions is a testimony to the commitment of most Iraqis to participate in shaping their country’s future through peaceful, democratic means,” he said.

He acknowledged that a great deal of work lies ahead. “Much remains to be done to develop a momentum within the political process which lays emphasis on what the Iraqis have in common, rather than on what divides them.”

Calling for a political process that draws back from civil strife and puts what Iraqis have in common ahead of ethnic and sectarian identities, he pledged the UN’s support for efforts by the League of Arab States to achieve dialogue and reconciliation.

“Iraq’s greatest asset is the diversity of its people, their skills and their history,” he said. “We will continue to make every effort to help facilitate genuine political progress and promote greater understanding between Iraq’s diverse communities.”

Citing “increasingly disturbing reports” about violations of the human rights of detainees, Mr. Gambari welcomed the announcement of corrective steps by the multinational forces and urged the Iraqi Government to follow up on its announced action to address the situation.

On the work of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), he appealed for support to its operations, emphasizing in particular the importance of air assets.

Also briefing the Council, United States Ambassador John Bolton said insurgent attacks had been stepped-up in the days leading up to the elections but said the multinational forces had achieved significant progress in responding to the persistent security challenges.

In a related development, Security Council President Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom circulated a press statement on the work of Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov, the Secretary-General’s High Level Coordinator on the issue of Kuwaiti property and persons missing as a result of Iraq’s 1990 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

Welcoming Iraq’s constructive engagement on the issue, Ambassador Jones Parry voiced confidence that all of the outstanding humanitarian questions could be resolved.

He also welcomed the signing of a protocol by representatives of the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait regarding the return of Kuwaiti aircraft spare parts located in Tunisia, while noting “with regret” that there had been no progress towards uncovering the fate of the missing Kuwaiti national archive.

Ambassador Sumaida’ie of Iraq voiced gratitude to the United Nations for its support during Iraq’s political transition. “We still face great challenges requiring sacrifice and assistance,” he said.

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