31/05/2005
Press Release
SC/8398


Security Council

5189th Meeting (AM)


DRAFTING IRAQ’S PERMANENT CONSTITUTION BY 15 AUGUST MOST CRITICAL STEP


IN POLITICAL PROCESS, FOREIGN MINISTER TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL


Says Any Delay Could Be Exploited by Anti-Democratic Forces;

Asks for UN Electoral Adviser, Continuation of Multinational Force


The drafting of a permanent constitution by 15 August –- the next step in Iraq’s political process -– would be the most critical, Hoshyar Zebari, that country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said this morning as the Security Council considered the situation in Iraq.


He said, in a briefing to the Council, that the constitution would embrace the diversity within Iraq’s unity and reaffirm its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.  It would not be just for the present generation, or the winners of last January’s election, but for all future Iraqis.  A successful formula must have the input of all the country’s communities and the Government was reaching out to all elements so that all Iraqis could be represented in the process.


Noting that the experience of the United Nations would be useful in advising the drafting team, he said that any delay in drafting and ratifying the new constitution could provide a vacuum to be exploited by anti-democratic forces.  Iraq urged the United Nations to appoint an electoral adviser and also sought the formal continuation of the Multinational Force (MNF), which was due for review.  The horrific and merciless tactics of the insurgency remained the same -- to spread division and undermine the new democratic system.


Foreign elements were determined to exploit Iraq’s problems for their own interests, he said, adding that neighbouring countries had been urged to abide by their obligations to prevent the flow of terrorists and weapons across their borders.  While welcoming Syria’s stopping of more than 1,000 foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq, that action confirmed the Government’s long-held view that Syria had been responsible for failing to stem the flow of terrorists across its border.  Iraq, with tactical cooperation from the MNF had been training security forces that were increasingly taking over the responsibility for maintaining security, law and order.


Also briefing the Council, the representative of the United States welcomed the willingness of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and Secretariat staff to work closely with the MNF to ensure that United Nations personnel faced minimum risk while delivering maximum support to Iraq.  Countries contributing to the Force protected United Nations facilities and staff in Baghdad and Basra and made financial contributions for the protection of UNAMI.  As the United Nations expanded its activities in Iraq, its security needs would increase.  The United States encouraged countries to consider additional assistance to the protection force, by providing either funds or troops.


Pointing out that the MNF was in place to help the Iraqis maintain security and stability until they could do so without assistance, she said that a specific timeline for the withdrawal of multinational forces could not be set.  The MNF would not remain in Iraq any longer than necessary, nor should it leave until the Iraqis could meet the serious security challenges they faced.  Any decision regarding force size would be driven by events on the ground.  Acts of terrorism and insurgency would not just disappear, as had been made clear by the spate of violence following the formation of the new Government.  The Iraqi people were in the midst of forging a free, democratic path and the MNF remained committed to creating an environment that fostered their progress.


The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 10:55 a.m.


Briefing Summary


Briefing the Security Council on behalf of the Multinational Force (MNF), ANNE PATTERSON (United States) reminded the Council that the Force was comprised of 28 member countries and 160,000 personnel.  She called attention to the 24 May letter from Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari to the Council President requesting the Council to allow for the continuation of the MNF mandate until the completion of the political process, or until Iraq could provide for its security needs on its own.  The mandate authorized the Force to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq.  That included preventing and deterring terrorism to allow the Iraqi people to implement freely and without intimidation the timetable and programme for the political process and to benefit from the reconstruction and rehabilitation activities.


She also noted that the Force provided assistance in building the capacity of the Iraqi security forces and institutions, through recruiting, training, equipping, mentoring, and monitoring, and it provided security for the United Nations.  Key goals of the Force were to develop increasingly capable Iraqi security forces and to transfer more and more security responsibilities to them.  That was essential to end attacks by insurgents and terrorists, and to develop the Iraqi public’s confidence in their own security forces.  Progress in the political process, endorsed by Council resolution 1546 (2004), buttressed the efforts of the Multinational and Iraqi forces to improve the security environment.  That progress encouraged all Iraqis to effect their political agenda through peaceful, democratic means and to renounce terrorism.


The Multinational Force was committed to “stay the course” in Iraq and would continue to assist the Iraqi Government to provide security, she said.  In so doing, the Force was committed to coordinating closely with the Iraqi Government at the local and national levels to employ more effective tactics to defeat the insurgents and prevent their attacks.  A harsh security situation in Iraq had confronted the new Iraqi Government.  Dramatic, headline-grabbing attacks against Iraqi citizens, aimed at breaking their will, continued.  In the face of that violence, Iraqis had been increasingly willing to assist the Iraqi and Multinational forces.  Iraqis also continued to volunteer for ranks of the security forces, and those forces were assuming increased responsibility.


She particularly welcomed the commitment of Prime Minister Ja’afari who said, “The Government will strike with a fist of iron on every criminal who tries to harm any citizen whether he was a Sunni, a Shiite, an Assyrian, a Kurd, or a Turkmen.”


Iraqis wanted to defend themselves and the Multinational Force was making progress in its goal of helping Iraqi security forces move towards self-reliance, she continued.  To date, some 165,000 Iraqi soldiers and police had been trained and equipped.  The Iraqi Army had more than 90 battalion-level units conducting operations.  Some of those forces conducted independent security operations.  Others operated alongside or with the support of the Multinational Force.  The Iraqi battalions were out in the cities and rural areas, and they were getting results.  Iraqi police and military forces were shouldering the burden in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.  There was much work to be done and the challenge should not be minimized, but those were valuable achievements.


She said that the MNF would continue to transition responsibilities to Iraqi security forces until their capabilities were sufficient to defeat the insurgents and terrorists and provide security without MNF assistance.  Towards that goal, the Force would continue to focus on partnering, mentoring, teaching and capacity-building.  Transitioning responsibilities also included giving Iraqi forces responsibility for particular areas, as that became possible.  That had already started in Baghdad and Mosul with one military brigade each, and would continue over time.  Multinational Force and Iraqi commanders placed a high premium on close cooperation to ensure that their actions were complementary and coordinated.  Accordingly, joint headquarters had been established at the national and provincial level to coordinate MNF, Iraqi Ministry of Defence, and Iraqi Ministry of Interior operations.


The MNF, in coordination with the Iraqi Government and security forces, international donors, and national and international non-governmental organizations, continued to support a number of reconstruction and assistance activities, she said.  Activities included building schools and hospitals, improving infrastructure of roads, water and sanitation, and removing landmines and unexploded ordnance.  The MNF had also trained Iraqi engineers to build local capacity to undertake such projects.  The United Nations had a leading and vital role to play in providing valuable assistance to Iraq’s political transition.  In her last briefing, she had welcomed the assistance of Ambassador Qazi and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).  She urged the Organization to provide that assistance as fully as possible, as requested by the Iraqi Government.  Towards that goal, she urged the United Nations to deploy the necessary experts as soon as possible.


She said she recognized the difficult security challenges that Iraq posed to the United Nations, and she welcomed the willingness of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and Secretariat staff to work closely with the MNF to ensure that United Nations personnel faced minimum risk and delivered maximum support to Iraq.  The MNF united from Georgia and Romania, with United States and United Kingdom support, protected United Nations facilities and staff in Baghdad and Basra.  In addition, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden had made financial contributions for UNAMI protection.  As the United Nations expanded its activities in Iraq, its security needs would increase.  She encouraged countries to consider additional assistance to the protection force, either through the provision of funds or troops.


Consistent with resolution 1546 (2004), the MNF was in Iraq to help the Iraqis maintain security and stability until they could do so unassisted.  While the Force assisted with the provision of security, it also worked to increase Iraqi capacity to assume that task.  A specific timeline for the withdrawal of multinational forces could not be set.  The MNF would not remain in Iraq longer than necessary, nor, consistent with Iraqi requests, should it leave until the Iraqis could meet the serious security challenges they faced.  Any decision regarding force size would be driven by events on the ground.  The degree to which the Iraqi people were satisfied with the way the Transitional National Assembly approached the constitutional process and worked to include all Iraqis would be of obvious relevance to future prospects.


She said she realized that that was a difficult process and that everyone must be patient.  Acts of terrorism and insurgency would not just disappear.  That had been made clear with the spate of violence following the formation of the new Government.  The Iraqi people were in the midst of forging a new path -- a free, democratic path and one that was chosen by the people.  The MNF remained committed to working to create an environment that fostered such progress.


Briefing by Minister for Foreign Affairs


HOSHYAR ZEBARI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, noting that the mandate of the MNF was now due for review, said that during its mandate it had helped Iraq to realize another year of progress towards democracy.  In June 2004, the Interim Government had reasserted its sovereignty and, with the Independent Electoral Commission, had delivered a free and fair election on time in January 2005, thus inspiring confidence in the democratic transition.  Those efforts, as well as the courage of the Iraqi people, had been recognized around the world.  For the first time in five decades there had been a peaceful transfer of power from one government to the next.  The new Government was sharing power with those who had boycotted the election, as well as those who had not fared very well.  Those who had been unwilling or unable to take part were now rallying themselves for the elections set for December.


Although those achievements were praiseworthy, they had been achieved at great cost to the Iraqi people and sacrifices by the MNF, he pointed out.  Iraqis still faced a destructive campaign of terror and violence aimed at destroying the political process.  Iraq also continued to face an armed insurgency that included foreign elements.  Despite its efforts to build up its security forces they could not yet assume responsibility for maintaining law and order and the country needed the MNF to continue providing its essential services.  Iraq formally requested a continuation of its mandate.  The horrific and merciless tactics of the insurgency remained the same -- to spread division and undermine the new democratic system.  But the people of Iraq had sent a clear message; though the terrorists had washed the streets of Baghdad with their blood, the people had responded by courageously casting their ballots.


Foreign elements were determined to exploit Iraq’s problems for their own interests, he said, adding that neighbouring countries had been urged to abide by their obligations to prevent the flow of terrorists and weapons across their borders.  Some had been more forthcoming than others.  While welcoming Syria’s stopping of more than 1,000 foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq, that action confirmed the Iraqi Government’s long-held view that Syria had been responsible for failing to stem the flow of terrorists across its border.  Iraq, with tactical cooperation from the MNF had been training security forces that were increasingly taking over the responsibility for security, law and order.  They had shifted from a defensive to an offensive posture and there continued to be an increasing number of volunteers.


The next step in the political process was the most critical, he said.  The Government had the mandate of drafting a new permanent constitution by 15 August, which would eventually lead to elections in December 2005.  The new constitution would embrace the diversity within Iraq’s unity and reaffirm its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.  That document would not be just for the present generation or the winners of the January election, but for all Iraqis into the future.  A successful formula must have the input of all the country’s communities and the Government was reaching out to all elements so that all Iraqis could be represented in the process.  The constitution would provide a new foundation for a democratic Iraq and the experience of the United Nations would be useful in advising the drafting team.  Any delay in drafting and ratifying the constitution could provide a vacuum that would be exploited by the anti-democratic forces.  Iraq urged the United Nations to appoint an electoral adviser.


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