07/06/2004
Press Release
SC/8113



Security Council                                           

4984th Meeting* (PM)                                        


LAKHDAR BRAHIMI BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON ‘COMPLICATED AND DELICATE’ PROCESS


LEADING TO IRAQ’S INTERIM GOVERNMENT, ELECTORAL COMMISSION


Secretary-General Tells Council Effort Completed ‘on Time and in Full’;

Reaffirms UN Readiness to Help Restore Peace, Stability in Sovereign Iraq


Special Adviser to the Secretary-General Lakhdar Brahimi told the Security Council this afternoon that, after a long, complicated and delicate process under less than optimal conditions, Iraq had two institutions essential for the next phase -- an Interim Government and a National Independent Electoral Commission.


Offering a detailed account of the process that began with a fact-finding mission in early February, Mr. Brahimi said that the Interim Government had generally found acceptance by the Iraqi people, who seemed to be willing to give them a chance to prove themselves.


Therehad been an overwhelming desire onthe part of the Iraqis for an elected government to take over from the Coalition Provisional Authority, but the technical assessment had been that the conditions simply were not there for that to happen before 30 June, and delaying the end of occupation had not been an option, he said.  Thus, the Interim Government was formed through an imperfect and ambiguous process.  It would not be fair to the people of Iraq to pretend otherwise.


There should be no illusion, he said.  The days and weeks ahead would severely test the new Government, and the solutions to Iraq’s current problems would take years, not months, to overcome.  On 30 June, Iraq would reach a new phase of the political process, not the end of that process.  Only an elected government and an elected legislature could legitimately claim to represent Iraq.  All of the work that needed to be done now, especially with respect to security, must be focused on the objective of creating the conditions for genuine and credible elections by January 2005.


Iraq would need an effective police force and a well-trained and professional army, he said.  Efforts must also be expedited to put in place the right legal, political and practical arrangements between the Interim Government and any foreign forces that were sought to assist with the maintenance of security, in the meantime.  An equally important and urgent measure was the grave issue of the prisoners detained in the notorious Abu Ghraib detention centre and elsewhere.  It would greatly help the new Government if that problem were to be completely solved even before 30 June, he said.


Addressing the Council before Mr. Brahimi’s briefing, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the process leading to the formation of the Interim Government, which had begun with the presentation, on 23 February, of the report of the fact-finding team, had been completed “on time and in full”.  Though they were not elected, there was in place a capable and reasonably balanced Interim Government, poised to take power by 30 June.  It would now have the task of bringing the country together, and of leading it effectively during the next seven months.  The Iraqi people would judge it by its actions and results, particularly in helping to stem the violence that continued to plague the country.


Iraq is not a failed State”, he declared.  He was confident that, through the talent of its people and the natural resources it enjoyed, Iraq would soon be able to resume its rightful place among the family of nations.


He noted that since the outbreak of the Iraq crisis, the role of the United Nations had been difficult, often dangerous, hedged about with constraints and controversy.  It was no secret that the events leading up to the war on Iraq, and developments since then, had been amongst the most divisive that the Council had had to deal with since the end of the cold war.  For many around the world, what was at stake was the way in which the international order and the system of collective security were being defined at the beginning of the new millennium.


The Secretary-General reaffirmed the readiness of the United Nations to do its utmost, as circumstances permitted, to contribute to the restoration of peace and stability in a unified, sovereign and democratic Iraq.  To that end, he looked forward to a clear definition of its role, and to the creation of all the conditions –- including the provision of security for its staff, and adequate resources –- which would allow the United Nations to implement the mandate given to it, to the satisfaction of the people of Iraq.


At the outset of the meeting, the Council observed a minute of silence in tribute to the memory of Ronald Reagan, the fortieth President of the United States.  The Council conveyed its condolence to Mrs. Nancy Reagan, to the bereaved family and to the Government and people of the United States.


The meeting began at 4:20 p.m. and ended at 5:12 p.m.


Background


The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Iraq.


Statement by Secretary-General


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General, said that since the outbreak of the Iraq crisis, the role of the United Nations had been difficult, often dangerous, hedged about with constraints and controversy.  In order to understand the role played over the last few weeks by Lakhdar Brahimi and his team, and by Carina Perelli and hers, it was important to set their efforts in a wider and longer perspective.  It was no secret that the events leading up to the war on Iraq, and developments since then, had been amongst the most divisive that the Council had had to deal with since the end of the cold war.  For many around the world, what was at stake was the way in which the international order and the system of collective security were being defined at the beginning of the new millennium.


Against that background of strongly held views on both sides of the argument, and sometimes bitter disagreement over the course of action that was chosen, it was inevitable that agreement on the role to be played by the United Nations in the aftermath of the war, especially in the political process, would also be elusive.  Member States were able to agree that the Organization should play a “vital” or “central” role.  But that role was never specifically defined.  Moreover, the deadly attack on United Nations headquarters in Baghdad greatly reduced the Organization’s capacity to act inside Iraq.


He said he found it extremely poignant that Mr. Brahimi and his team left Iraq last week on 2 June, one year to the day after Sergio Vieira de Mello and his team arrived in Baghdad, on 2 June 2003.  The temporary relocation of United Nations international staff from the country following the 19 August bombing did not mean that the United Nations had disengaged from Iraq’s political process.  On the contrary, the Organization, from here at Headquarters, intensified contacts with governments around the world.  The primary message he had given to world leaders was the need for the occupation to be brought to an end, as soon as possible, and for Iraqis to regain control of their sovereignty, political destiny and natural resources.


Therefore, he had welcomed the fact that a date had finally been set for the formation of a sovereign Iraqi government, even if many felt that it was still not soon enough.  At the same time, prominent figures representing key constituencies in Iraq were threatening to reject the outcome of the caucus-style method prescribed in the 15 November Agreement for selecting that Government.  It looked as if there was a real risk that the political transition process might collapse only a few weeks after it was to have entered a new phase.  A political crisis loomed.


Against that background, the President of the Iraqi Governing Council had written to him at the end of December 2003 asking the United Nations to help determine the answers to two questions.  First, whether elections were feasible by 30 June 2004; and if not, by what alternative means an Interim Government could be formed, to which sovereignty would be restored.


Following a meeting at Headquarters on 19 January with the Iraqi Governing Council, the Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Personal Representative to Iraq, he had responded positively to the request for assistance, having been given strong assurances that there was a clear role for the United Nations to play, and that everything possible would be done to provide security for the United Nations personnel engaged in the effort.  His position then and now had remained that whatever role the United Nations undertook should be proportionate to the risks that the staff had been asked to assume.


He had asked Mr. Brahimi to visit Iraq from 6 to 13 February, joined by a small political team and a group of electoral experts headed by Carina Perelli, Director of the Electoral Assistance Division in the Department of Political Affairs.  During their trip, they met with hundreds of Iraqi groups and citizens, of all persuasions from around the country, including prominent figures such as Grand Ayatollah Al Sistani.  On 23 February, he had presented the report of that fact-finding visit to the Security Council, with his full support for its observations and recommendations.  Thus began the process leading to the formation of the Interim Government, as well as the preparations for elections to be held by January 2005.


He noted that the process which began on the basis of the fact-finding team’s report had been completed on time and in full.  The role of the United Nations, through the good offices of Mr. Brahimi, was to help facilitate a process of national dialogue and consensus-building among Iraqis, leading to the formation of an Interim Government.  Though they were not elected, there was now in place a capable and reasonably balanced Interim Government, poised to take power by 30 June.  The United Nations was fully involved in facilitating consensus on its structure and composition.


That Interim Government would now have the task of bringing the country together, and of leading it effectively during the next seven months.  The Iraqi people would judge it by its actions and results, particularly in helping to stem the violence that continued to plague the country.  “Iraq is not a failed State.”  He was confident that, through the talent of its people and the natural resources it enjoyed, Iraq would soon be able to resume its rightful place among the family of nations.  He appealed to the Security Council and the international community at large, Iraq’s neighbours in particular, to respond favourably and generously to the Interim Government’s request for assistance and support.


Mr. Brahimi and his team had also helped forge consensus on a Chairman for the Committee that would prepare for a National Conference in early July.  The Chairman was now in the process of finalizing the composition of the Committee, on the basis of recommendations he had received from the United Nations.


United Nations electoral experts had worked diligently to help Iraqis lay the essential groundwork for elections.  He was pleased to report that the establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq was complete, following a country-wide nomination process.  Close to 2,000 nominations were received from all 18 governorates.  Seven Iraqi Commissioners and a National Electoral Director had been selected by the United Nations.  Agreement had also been reached on the legislative framework needed for elections, including the electoral system; political parties and representation; and criteria for voter eligibility.


Everyone knew that security remained the primary obstacle and constraint, he said.  He hoped that, through combined efforts, it would be possible to help promote a political process with a credibility that had a positive impact on the overall security environment, and reversed the logic of violence on all sides.  The mission that had just been accomplished by Mr. Brahimi was a specific task accepted at the request of both the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council.  Also at their request, the United Nations was now engaged in supporting the preparations of the elections to be held by January 2005.


The resolution the Council was discussing addressed, among other things, the future role of the United Nations in Iraq.  He reaffirmed the Organization’s readiness to do its utmost -– as circumstances permitted –- to contribute to the restoration of peace and stability in a unified, sovereign and democratic Iraq.  To that end, he looked forward to a clear definition of its role, and to the creation of all the conditions –- including the provision of security for its staff, and adequate resources –- which would allow the United Nations to implement the mandate given to it, to the satisfaction of the people of Iraq.


Statement by Special Adviser


LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, said that his own personal involvement with the process of forming the Interim Government began with the fact-finding team to Iraq, which he had led in early February.  It was on the basis of the process of consultations begun then with Iraqi political parties, professional associations, religious and tribal leaders, and others, in addition to those with the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council, that the observations and recommendations in the fact-finding team’s report had been formulated.


He said that that report had made clear that there was an overwhelming desire on the part of Iraqis for an elected government to take over from the Coalitional Provisional Authority.  But, there had also been an understanding that such a government would not be viable if the elections held for it were not “genuine and credible”.  The technical assessment had been that the conditions simply were not there for that to happen before 30 June.  Eight months at the very least would be needed to organize a proper election from the time that an electoral authority and electoral framework had been put in place.  Naturally, delaying the end of occupation had not been an option.


Therefore, there had been no alternative but to accept that restoration of sovereignty by 30 June would be made to a non-elected government, he said.  It had not been possible to present a preferred option to the “caucus-style” system, which had been rejected.  It was up to the Iraqi people to reflect on that question, free of the sometimes politically motivated rhetoric that had surrounded the debate on whether credible elections could be held by 30 June.  That was not a time to hastily push through a solution, especially because, as the fact-finding team’s report had pointed out, the country was so divided.


Following much debate and his return to Iraq for a second time from 4 to 15 April, in the end a consensus had appeared to emerge on the formation of an Interim Government comprised of a President, two Vice-Presidents and a Cabinet of Ministers headed by a Prime Minister.  Outside of the Governing Council, there was a call for that Government to consist of honest and competent people, who would effectively run the country for seven months or so, while preparations for elections were being made.  Once again, the people of Iraq, in all quarters, stressed that the elections were the most important milestone for them.


In his briefing to the Security Council on 27 April, he had stated that, ideally, those serving in the government would choose, themselves, not to stand as candidates in the elections for the National Assembly, which would be elected by next January.  He had also stressed that the formation of the Interim Government alone would not be sufficient to help “turn the tide of violence”.  Confidence-building measures would also be needed, in tandem, to address such controversial and divisive issues as the manner in which the new army would be formed,
“de-baathification”, and the issue of detainees and due process.


He recalled that, within that context, he had suggested that a National Conference be convened once sovereignty was restored, in order to provide a forum for Iraqi men and women around the country to debate and hopefully forge consensus on the challenges they faced for their immediate and longer-term future.  He had also proposed that that Conference select a smaller National Council, which could continue the discussions and advise the Interim Government throughout its short tenure.  In order for it to be well-prepared, he recommended that a diverse Preparatory Committee should be formed as quickly as possible.


A few days after briefing the Council, he and his team arrived in Baghdad on 1 May for their third and final visit, he said.  The immediate task was to gauge the reactions to those preliminary ideas, which had been a reflection of what Iraqis had been telling them.  What he found was that there was “virtual consensus” on the structure of the government.  It had the merit of simplicity, while containing enough positions of real and symbolic importance to allow most, if not all, key constituencies to feel represented.  Debate remained, however, on two key issues, namely, how the government would be selected, and to what extent political parties should be represented in it.


At the end of the day, he said, there was no getting away from the fact that the Interim Government would not be elected.  It would be an imperfect and ambiguous selection process.  It would not be fair to the people of Iraq to pretend otherwise. 


He said that the key was to ensure that the participation of political parties did not lead to rising sectarianism, the crowding out of competent independent candidates, or the disproportionate influence of any one political party in the government.  When the time came to start discussions on actual names, he proposed the idea of forming a working group, comprised of the United Nations, the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the Iraqi Governing Council.  That the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council needed to be formally included in the discussions had been a forgone conclusion to his team from the outset.  After all, it had been they who had requested the United Nations’ assistance, and not the other way around.


At the same time, however, the Authority and the Governing Council members themselves had recognized that they could not legitimately claim to speak for all Iraqis, he said.  It was for that reason, among others, that they called on the United Nations to assist in the process in the first place.  Both parties had accepted, therefore, that the United Nations would introduce into the discussions the views it had been hearing from Iraqis around the country.  Due to time and security constraints, however, the team had not consulted as visibly or widely with a sufficient number of the many civic associations or the several hundred political parties said to have existed. 


Nevertheless, he said the team had met, during its three visits, with thousands of Iraqis from around the country, and a particular effort had been made to seek out the views of the extreme critics.  He sincerely apologized to all those who had sought to see the team and had been unable to do so.  Meanwhile, the working group had proved to be a reasonably effective forum for thrashing out ideas.  Tragically, just one day after it had met in Erbil, Ezzedine Selim was assassinated in Baghdad on 17 May.  His death had not only been a blow to the process, but a real loss for the country.  Soon after, Hamid Majid Moussa, Chairman of the Governing Council’s Committee on the Transfer of Sovereignty, had been invited to replace Ezzedine Selim on the working group.


Despite some initial difficulty in the discussions, the most support had appeared to be gathering within the Governing Council, within the Coalition Provisional Authority, as well as with key communities for Dr. Ayad Allawi as Prime Minister.  Though his political party was not religiously based, he maintained good relations with important religious figures.  Though known for his attempts to overthrow the former regime, with outside help, he had in the past year been publicly critical of the Authority’s approach to the de-baathification policy and the manner in which the former Army had been disbanded.  Though a Shia, he enjoyed good relations with key Kurdish and Arab Sunni actors alike.  His resume understandably provoked controversy, but what name, in connection with the post of Prime Minister, did not in today’s Iraq? he asked.


On the basis of the recommendations that had been formally handed over to Dr. Allawi, he said that, despite some very difficult compromises and statesmanship, consensus eventually emerged on the choice of Dr. Ibrahimi Jafari and Dr. Rowsch Shaways as Deputy Presidents.  As for the position of President, the field had narrowed to two candidates relatively quickly:  Dr. Adnan Pachachi, the former Foreign Minister of Iraq, and Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawer, who, as President of the Governing Council in May, had earned the support and respect of his colleagues.  In the end, Dr. Pachachi declined the position and Sheikh Ghazi had become President.


He said that there were also many new faces, including for the ministers for defence, interior, trade and finance.  Almost two thirds of the Cabinet was new and only two former members of the Governing Council would be taking up Cabinet positions.  The Council of Minister largely reflected the rich regional, ethnic and religious diversity of the country.  Very able ministers from the Turkomen and Caldo-Assyrian communities were represented, as well as new political figures from constituencies that had not been well represented in the Governing Council.  The Council of Ministers was largely composed of technocrats, although some of them were politically affiliated, as was often the case in many countries.


Taken as a complete package, the Interim Government had a great deal of talent and was well positioned to bring the country together during the next seven months or so, he said.  As Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani had recently said, they deserved to be given a fair chance and full support.  At the same time, the Iraqi people would ultimately judge them on the basis of what they did.


He said it would need to start taking ownership of the solutions that must be found to the “grave insecurity” that continued to affect the country.  Iraq would need an effective police force and a well-trained and professional army.  Efforts to bring those about must be expedited.  So, too, must the right legal, political and practical arrangements between the Interim Government and any foreign forces that were sought to assist with the maintenance of security in the meantime.  How that relationship was managed would greatly affect the credibility of the Interim Government in the eyes of its people.  In that context, it was encouraging to hear that the Prime Minister had reached agreement with the concerned parties for the dissolution of militias.  That had been listed among the urgent confidence-building measures his team had recommended after its second visit to Iraq.


An equally important and urgent measure was the grave issue of the prisoners detained in the notorious Abu Ghraib detention centre and elsewhere, he continued.  It would greatly help the new Government if that problem were to be completely solved even before 30 June.  It must also be borne in mind that the majority of Iraqis with whom his team had met had stressed that the problem of insecurity could not be solved through military means alone; a political solution was also required.  The Interim Government should lead that discussion.  It should reach out to those who had been vocal critics of the past year’s process and engage them in dialogue.  It should also resist the temptation to characterize all who had opposed the occupation as terrorists and “bitter-enders”.


He said that the National Conference was an ideal opportunity to start that process of outreach and of holding a genuinely national consensus on how to address the prevailing insecurity.  Dr. Fouad Massoum would head the Committee that had been charged with preparing the National Conference to be held in July.  During that process, he was sure that Dr. Massoum and his colleagues would recall that the Governing Council had been established strictly on a quota basis, which had been universally decried and rejected.  The National Conference, therefore, should not be convened on the basis of any quota system, although care should be taken to reflect the country’s diversity.


In that connection, he said he felt he must convey the justified demand of the Turkomen to be recognized as the third largest community in Iraq.  Similar demands had been formulated by other smaller communities.  Those legitimate demands should also be heeded and could be accommodated in the forthcoming constitution.


In closing, he said that the United Nations had completed its task for that particular stage “in full and on time”.  After a long, complicated and delicate process, which had taken place under less-than-optimal conditions, Iraq had two institutions essential for the next phase –- an Interim Government and a National Independent Electoral Commission.  The Government had generally found acceptance by the Iraqi people.  Some were more cautious and, in some quarters, there might be stronger opposition, but the Iraqi people seemed to be willing to give them a chance to prove themselves.


There should be no illusion, however, he stressed.  The days and weeks ahead would severely test the new Government, and the solutions to Iraq’s current problems would take years, not months, to overcome.  On 30 June, Iraq would reach a new phase of the political process, not the end of that process.


The fact remained, however, that neither the Interim Government nor the National Council to be chosen by the National Conference would be elected bodies.  Only an elected government and an elected legislature could legitimately claim to represent Iraq.  All of the work that needed to be done now, especially with respect to security, must be focused on the objective of creating the conditions for genuine and credible elections to be held by January 2005.


He said that, in order to create the right conditions for elections, as well as to face the enormous challenges before them, the people of Iraq urgently needed the help of the international community.  Iraq needed the clear and united support of its neighbours.  Iraq also needed the generosity of its creditors, and it needed the patient, strong and sustained support of the Security Council and that of the United Nations as a whole.


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*     The 4983rd Meeting was closed.