19 October 2007
Security Council
SC/9146

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5763rd Meeting (AM)


DESPITE IRAQ’S COMPLEX SECTARIAN TENSIONS, RECENT DEVELOPMENTS PROVIDE OPPORTUNITY


FOR PROGRESS ‘THAT MUST NOT BE MISSED’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD


Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Says Drop in Casualties, Mahdi

Army Ceasefire, Other Events Could Lay Basis for Broad National Reconciliation


Despite the complex sectarian tensions that were still creating havoc in Iraq, recent developments in the country provided an opportunity for progress that must not be missed, B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council this morning as he briefed it on developments there.


Positive trends, he said, included the lowest monthly casualties for the year in the month of September.  The ceasefire declared by the Mahdi Army, the Sunni insurgent alliance against Al-Qaida, the pact reached by the Sadrists and the efforts by the Multinational Force and the Iraqi security forces all appeared to be contributing to that effect.


Those events, he said, represented a political opportunity to transform military-political developments into a basis for achieving broad national reconciliation.  Now, Iraqi leaders must move beyond rhetoric towards progress on the constitutional review and major legislation, such as that on oil and de-Baathification reform, as part of a wider political reconciliation process.


The United Nations, he said, stood ready to assist the Government towards that end.  In preparation for the expanded mandate of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), decided on in Council resolution 1770 (2007), the Secretary-General had increased staff ceilings in Baghdad and Erbil and was looking into re-establishing a presence in Basra.


In light of the magnitude of the challenges, he urged Member States to provide support.  He thanked those that had provided protection, logistical support and troops for the so-called “Distinct Entity” meant to provide security for UNAMI.  He urged more contributions to the trust fund to support that security arrangement, which otherwise would be exhausted next month.


Following Mr. Pascoe’s presentation, the United States representative briefed the Council on behalf of the Multinational Force.  He said he looked forward to the expanded work of UNAMI in assisting the Government of Iraq in implementing its programme of national reconciliation, regional cooperation and humanitarian assistance.


As a result of actions in Al-Anbar Province by the Multinational Force and the Iraqi national army, he said, the provincial councils of Al-Anbar and Diyala had been enabled to hold regular meetings that had led to restoring services and developing the economy.  Today, the landscape of Al-Anbar was dramatically different.  The 2007 surge had given communities the confidence to help defeat extremists, and security measures benefiting the population had made terrorist attacks more difficult.


He said a key challenge was now to link those positive developments in the provinces to the progress in the central Government in Baghdad.  The support of the central Government to the provinces was also needed to maintain hard won security by providing increases in locally generated police.  Improved security had created conditions for economic progress.  International and regional engagement was also improving the environment, but, unfortunately, some neighbours seemed to believe they could benefit from instability.  Iran had provided lethal aid to radical Shia and Sunni militants inside Iraq, who attacked Iraqi officials, innocent civilians and coalition forces.  Syria continued to provide safe haven for elements of the previous regime, who now served as the financiers and leaders of the insurgency.  It remained the main transit hub for Iraq bound terrorists.


In the discussion that followed, most speakers agreed that, although Iraq was still wracked by violence, there was an opportunity for the Iraqi Government and other actors in Iraq to make political progress, stressing that stability could not be brought to the country by force alone.  Many also expressed deep concern over the humanitarian, human rights and displacement situations in the country.  Most speakers strongly supported an expanded role for the United Nations in Iraq and welcomed recent initiatives for the constructive engagement of neighbouring countries and other States in the region.


Some speakers maintained, however, that it was also time for the Multinational Force and other foreign forces to present a timeline for withdrawal.  The representative of the Russian Federation said that such a timeline could help diffuse tensions.  He called attention, in that regard, to the killings by the Blackwater security firm, and he affirmed the right of Iraqi’s Government to rein in such actors.


Iraq’s representative said security plans carried out by the Iraqi army with the assistance of the Multinational Force had contributed to isolating the terrorists in separate parts of Iraq.  The main challenges to Iraq were still present, but “their danger has begun to decline”.


UNAMI’s expansion, he said, enjoyed wide acceptance by the Iraqi Government, and international assistance was still sorely needed in the critical areas of the economy and national reconciliation.  Despite those challenges, the Iraqi Government was continuing the reconstruction process.  The 2008 budget had allocated $10.5 billion to investment programmes, and progress was being made on the legislative front.


He said his Government was also working hard to create suitable conditions for the return of displaced persons, but it was another area in which international assistance was needed.  He hoped that the upcoming visit of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council would achieve positive results in reinforcing and protecting human rights in the country.


Finally, he appealed to the Council to free his country from the heavy burden of compensating for the Kuwait invasion by the Saddam regime.  It had paid more that $22 billion and continued to pay.  Given the immense challenges the country faced, he expressed hope the burden could be reduced.


Also speaking today were representatives of Qatar, Peru, France, Indonesia, Italy, Belgium, China, Panama, South Africa, United Kingdom, Congo, Slovakia and Ghana.


The meeting, which opened at 10:25 a.m., adjourned at 12:20 p.m.


Background


As the Security Council took up the situation concerning Iraq this morning, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1770 (2007) (document S/2007/608) on the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which provides an update on United Nations activities in the country since the last report of 5 June (document S/2007/330).


The report focuses on the initial steps taken to implement resolution 1770 (2007), which expanded the Organization’s political role in Iraq, aimed at bringing together rival factions, gaining broader support from neighbouring countries and tackling the deepening humanitarian crisis.  It presents a summary of key political developments and the efforts of the Government of Iraq to promote national reconciliation, as well as regional and international developments.  It also provides an update on the activities the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, and an assessment of the security situation.


According to the report, the Secretary-General hosted on 22 September a meeting of the participants of the “expanded neighbours” meetings to discuss support for the implementation of the new United Nations mandate and progress made with the implementation of the International Compact with Iraq.  That meeting strongly supported United Nations involvement in advancing inclusive political dialogue in Iraq and emphasized the need to enhance regional cooperation.  He also hosted a meeting in New York on 20 July to consider the midyear progress report, which cited significant achievement in many sectors, despite the difficult security situation.  The Compact secretariat had been established as an agency of the Government.


The report notes that, as of 31 August, the total contributions to the United Nations Development Group Iraq Trust Fund, one of the two funds of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, equalled $1.26 billion.  A total of 160 projects had been approved for funding.  The sixth meeting of the donor committee for the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq will take place in Bari, Italy, on 28 and 29 October.


The security situation in Iraq continues to severely limit the daily activities of the United Nations, the report states.  The level of indirect fire against the international zone in Baghdad remained constant until September, when it fell to the lowest level encountered for 2007.  Camp Victory at Baghdad International Airport was twice targeted by 240-mm rockets.  UNAMI is working with the Multinational Force to determine if this represents the beginning of a trend.  National staff members continue to encounter serious security-related problems.  Numerous staff members have been forced to relocate their families.  A small number of staff have received direct threats, which are being investigated by the Mission’s Safety and Security Unit.


Overhead protection for the Mission’s interim accommodation facility has been completed and will provide for additional staff to be deployed to Baghdad when required, the report states.  The construction of the integrated United Nations headquarters in Baghdad remains the only viable option for the continued presence of staff in Baghdad, due to the high level of security risk.  The trust fund established in 2004 to support the “Distinct Entity” that provides protection for the United Nations will be exhausted by the end of November.  The Secretary-General calls upon Member States to contribute to the trust fund in order to allow for the continuation of security arrangements for the Organization’s presence in Iraq and its enhanced activities.  UNAMI has recently dispatched a team to explore the possibility of deploying staff to a new location in Basra.  Assessments are under way regarding potential expansion of operations in Arbil, covering the north of Iraq.


The Secretary-General observes that there is now an opportunity that should not be missed.  September witnessed the lowest number of Iraqi casualties for the year.  The decrease in violence resulting from the ceasefire by the Mahdi Army and the Sunni insurgent allegiance against Al-Qaida holds significant political potential, which has to be transformed into a basis for national reconciliation.


In consultation with the Government of Iraq, says the Secretary-General, the United Nations is vigorously planning practical and immediate steps aimed at implementing the new Council resolution 1770 (2007).  In support of the enhanced role, the United Nations team in Iraq has been strengthened by increasing the staff ceiling in Baghdad and Arbil.  The Secretary-General is also considering ways to improve outreach to the provinces, including the re-establishment of a small United Nations presence in Basra.


According to the Secretary-General, the Organization maintains several distinct comparative advantages in fostering national dialogue in Iraq.  It enjoys good relations with a wide range of actors from across the political spectrum and the Organization’s only agenda is the one publicly declared in its mandate.  Also, the United Nations draws upon a wide range of best practices.  The United Nations will continue to provide technical expertise and stands ready to assist in the successful completion of the constitutional review and in drafting key constitutionally mandated legislation.  The United Nations, however, must be afforded the necessary political space and support to operate meaningfully with all parties concerned.  The ability of the United Nations to talk with all sides must be protected and respected.


Regional cooperation must reinforce the efforts made by leaders in the country and avoid exacerbating tensions, according to the Secretary-General.  While there are competing views and interests held by Iraq’s neighbours, the regional dialogue among them and other key international actors begun at Sharm el-Sheikh holds significant promise.  The United Nations has offered to support a mechanism to ensure adequate follow-up.  He hoped that the next meeting, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, in early November will address that matter in a constructive manner.


The number of Iraqi refugees and displaced persons remains a matter of serious concern.  While the Secretary-General commends the neighbouring host countries, particularly Jordan and Syria, their capacities are now strained.  It remains a vital task for the Government of Iraq and the international community to ensure that adequate assistance is mobilized and delivered.


In conclusion, the Secretary-General notes that for the United Nations to meet the demanding tasks outlined in the new mandate it would have to continue to rely on Member States for support.  He, therefore, urges Member States to provide the necessary financial and logistical resources for UNAMI, including for the Distinct Entity and dedicated air assets, and the required security arrangements, such as through the provision of military advisers and the approval of funding for the new integrated United Nations facility in Baghdad.


Statement by Under-Secretary-General


B. LYNN PASCOE, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, introduced the report on Iraq, the first issued pursuant to resolution 1770 (2007), which defined an expanded mandate for the United Nations.  The report includes preparations the Organization is making for such an expanded role.


Iraq today, he said, was faced with an exceptionally complex series of overlapping sectarian, political and ethnic conflicts that had proved to be beyond the capacity of any one actor or policy initiative to resolve.  Violence aimed at civilian populations and members of the Government continued to impede all efforts at improvement.


However, as noted in the report, there was an opportunity today that should not be missed.  September had witnessed the lowest number of Iraqi casualties for the year.  The ceasefire declared by the Mahdi Army and the Sunni insurgent alliance against Al-Qaida, the pact reached by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and the Sadrists and the efforts by the Multinational Force and the Iraq Security Forces all appeared to be contributing to that effect.


Those events, he said, represented a political opportunity to transform military-political developments into a basis for achieving broad national reconciliation.  Now, Iraqi leaders must move beyond rhetoric towards progress on the constitutional review and major legislation, such as that on oil and de-Baathification reform, as part of a wider political reconciliation process.


The United Nations, he said, stood ready to assist the Government towards that end and, according to the expanded mandate, would also help promote the constructive engagement of regional countries.  In that regard, the dialogue among Iraq’s neighbours and other key international actors initiated at Sharm el-Sheikh was encouraging, and he expressed hope for further such meetings.  The high-level meeting on 22 September had also highlighted progress made in implementing the International Compact and other development and reconstruction assistance.


The humanitarian situation continued to be alarming, however.  The estimated number of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons had risen to 4.2 million, with monthly displacement rates climbing to over 60,000 persons.  He urged the international community to follow through on its commitments in that area.


In regard to the equally worrying human rights situation, he said the Government had a particular responsibility to bring perpetrators of abuses to justice, to promote the rule of law and strengthen the security forces and the judiciary.  He welcomed the Government’s commitments in that area and pledged United Nations support.


In preparations for an enhanced role for the United Nations in Iraq, the Secretary-General had increased staff ceilings in Baghdad and Erbil, and was looking into re-establishing a presence in Basra.  In light of the challenges, he urged Member States to provide support.  He thanked those that had provided protection and logistical support and troops for the Distinct Entity providing security for UNAMI.  He urged more contributions to the trust fund to support that security arrangement, which otherwise would be exhausted next month.


In conclusion, he said that strong international efforts to counter the unfolding crises in the country were critical in support of the Government, which acknowledged it had primary responsibility to bring about stability.  The new United Nations mandate, matched by strong international support, provided the necessary framework to move towards building a more stable Iraq.


Briefing on the Multinational Force


ZALMAY KHALILZAD (United States), speaking on behalf of the Multinational Force, said he looked forward to the expanded work of UNAMI in assisting the Government of Iraq in implementing its programme of national reconciliation, regional cooperation and humanitarian assistance.  Iraq must overcome profound security, economic and political challenges, and progress in those areas was inherently linked.  For example, as a result of actions in Al-Anbar Province by the Multinational Force and the Iraqi national army, the provincial councils of Al-Anbar and Diyala had been enabled to hold regular meetings that had led to restoring services and developing the economy.  Last year, recognizing that the Multinational Force would help Al-Anbar tribes had begun to fight against Al-Qaida.  Today, the landscape of Al-Anbar was dramatically different.  Shia extremists were also facing rejection.  Recent attacks by elements of the Iranian-backed Vaysh al-Mahdi on worshippers in Karbala had provoked a backlash.


He said a key challenge now was to link those positive developments in the provinces to the central Government in Baghdad.  The support of the central Government to the provinces was also needed to maintain hard-won security by providing increases in locally generated police.  Improved security had also created conditions for economic progress.  Infrastructure was being repaired and markets were reviving.  Growth of at least 6 per cent had been reported and inflation was slowing down.  The 2007 budget had allocated $10 billion to capital investment.  One sign of confidence was the recent issuance of three licenses for mobile telephones at $3.75 billion.


International and regional engagement was also improving the political and economic environment, he said.  The United Nations was reporting progress in 75 per cent of the 400 areas Iraq had identified for action.  His country was looking forward to the “expanded neighbours” group meeting in two weeks.  Unfortunately, some neighbours appeared to believe they could benefit from instability in Iraq.  Iran had provided lethal aid to radical Shia and Sunni militants inside Iraq, who attacked Iraqi officials, innocent civilians and coalition forces.  Syria continued to provide a safe haven for elements of the previous regime, who now served as key financiers and leaders of the insurgency.  It remained the main transit hub for Iraq-bound terrorists.


The 2007 surge had given communities the confidence to work to defeat extremists, he said.  Population security measures had made attacks by terrorists more difficult.  Significant blows had been given to Al-Qaida and Shiite extremists.  The overall number of security incidents continued to decline, as had the overall number of civilian deaths, although the number was still unacceptable.  Improvised explosive device attacks had also declined.  Iraqi security forces continued to grow.  There were now 152 Iraqi army, police and special operations forces battalions operating, two thirds of which were capable of leading operations.


He said the Multinational Force had employed counterinsurgency practices that underscored the importance of units living among the people they were protecting.  It also engaged in dialogue with former insurgent groups, in conjunction with Iraqi officials, to broker local ceasefires.  The Multinational Force also continued to emphasize development of the Iraqi security forces.  Four provinces had been handed over to Iraqi control.  The security situation in Iraq was transforming: some of the players were changing sides and that qualitative shift against extremisms was an improvement.  In the coming months, efforts must be redoubled to improve security and prevent human suffering, while preserving regional security and stability.


On 26 August, Iraq’s five most prominent leaders had agreed on the need for the continued process of the Multinational Forces for another year.  He expected to offer a resolution to that end before the end of the year.


Statements


NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said that, after the reduction of the Organization’s role in recent years, time had come for the United Nations to play a more assertive role.  There was no doubt that the Organization could make a more effective contribution in such areas as constitutional support, electoral assistance, reconstruction, development, humanitarian assistance and in the area of human rights, as well as in the implementation of the International Compact.  It could also play a bigger role in stimulating national dialogue.  The importance of national reconciliation had become increasingly evident.  In order to succeed in restoring stability, build the country’s national institutions and reinvigorate its development, the Government of Iraq, UNAMI and the Multinational Force would need to make concerted efforts and show good coordination.


He said the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons was worsening by the day and constituted a danger to stability.  That situation needed to be addressed and assistance must be provided to the neighbouring countries that were bearing heavy burdens.  Another cause of concern was the issue of responsibility and accountability of the private security companies and their violations of international humanitarian law.  They must be held accountable for the crimes they committed.  No violations of human rights in Iraq must be overlooked and due process in dealing with detainees must be ensured.  It was essential to address the issue of stability through an integrated approach that included the continuous strengthening of the Iraqi security forces, rehabilitation of former combatants, and solving the humanitarian and socio-economic problems.  Ensuring the safety of UNAMI staff should be a top priority.


VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he agreed with many of the concerns expressed in the Secretary-General’s report.  The greatest danger to Iraq, in his view, was the interdenominational violence, which continued to sink new roots in Iraqi soil.  The situation in Kirkuk and on the Turkish border was particularly worrying, and he called for a peaceful resolution of tensions in that area.


Stability in Iraq could only be achieved by political means and the United Nations must help in that area, he said.  He agreed that the Organizations must have the right to interact with all parties.  Confidence in United Nations representatives must be strengthened; for that reason, the mission status agreement must be finalized.  In addition, a timeline for the withdrawal of the Multinational Force would help diffuse tensions.  He called attention, in that regard, to the killings by the Blackwater security firm and he affirmed the right of Iraq’s Government to rein in such companies.


JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said that, unfortunately, the decrease in acts of violence had not been used well by the Iraqi Government to this point.  He expressed extreme concern at the political situation, which was not helping to lead towards reconciliation.  A spirit of compromise must prevail.  The legislation mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report was crucial, as was progress in security and the worrying human rights situation.


The militias, he said, must be disarmed and all security responsibilities transferred to the national army, which also must take over from foreign forces.  The International Compact would only make progress if the security situation improved, and oil resources must be dealt with in a rational way, to benefit all citizens.  Neighbouring countries must help resolve urgent issues on their agenda and avoid unilateral decisions.  Finally, he expressed strong support for UNAMI.


JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) said Iraq still confronted economic and political challenges that had risks for the region and the international community.  The humanitarian situation was extremely disturbing, with more that 2.2 million internally displaced persons and 2 million refugees.  Welcoming the work of Jordan and Syria, he said France was assisting the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in that regard.  France supported the unity and integrity of Iraq, but acknowledged that it was up to the Iraqis to build a society of peace.  The key was a true process of national reconciliation that was as inclusive as possible.  The nations in the region also had an important role to play.


He said there should be a withdrawal horizon for foreign forces.  In that regard, he supported strengthening the role of the United Nations Mission.  In the political area, the Mission could contribute to dialogue and national reconciliation.  It could also assist in the humanitarian situation, in strengthening respect for human rights and in fighting impunity.  As for the Compact, he underlined that assistance must be effective.  To that end, authorities must establish rules of management that would allow for good governance.  Also, the strengthening of the United Nations presence must take into account the constraints of the security situation.  His country would become particularly involved in supporting the health and justice sector.


R.M. MARTY NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said ongoing violence in Iraq continued to pose serious challenges to the Government and the Iraqi people in their efforts toward reconstruction and nation-building.  Considering the significance of security and stability on making progress in the political and socio-economic sectors, he had little doubt that the Iraqi Government recognized the importance of finding a viable solution to security concerns.  Responsibility for restoring security and stability rested with all factions, as well as the Government, and he welcomed the ceasefire by some factions that had led to the decrease in violence during September 2007.


Continuing, he stressed that unity was the key to sustainable peace, noting that high levels of displacement and political gridlock reduced opportunities for unity.  He encouraged the Iraqi people to set aside all ethnic, religious and political differences and work together to develop a political dialogue and work toward reconciliation.  He commended the Special Representative of the Secretary-General’s efforts in maintaining contacts with political, religious and tribal leaders to encourage an inclusive political process and bolster security improvements in Iraq.  He brought to the Security Council’s attention two incidents, one on 27 August in Karbala and the recent violence in Kirkuk, which, showed that intrafaith dialogue was as important as interfaith dialogue.


Regarding the International Compact with Iraq, he pointed out that it was premised on a reciprocal relationship between peacebuilding and economic prosperity, and remained an important framework for an international partnership.  He noted that the Compact would require institutional support.  Accordingly, he welcomed the establishment of the Compact secretariat as an agency of the Iraqi Government operating with the support of the United Nations to facilitate its implementation.  He added that serious humanitarian consequences had resulted from the violence in Iraq, including displacement, restriction of movement and limitation of access for humanitarian operations.  He was troubled by the growing number of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons and the conditions faced by Iraqi children, and he welcomed the launch of joint appeal by United Nations specialized agencies in September 2007 to address the urgent health needs of Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries.  The United Nations could help to coordinate and support humanitarian aid for refugees and internally displaced persons.


Finally, he said, the role and contribution of UNAMI was particularly pertinent in helping Iraqis achieve their goals.  Further, he recognized the Mission’s increased responsibility under Security Council resolution 1770 (2007).  However, he underlined the importance of balancing the expansion of tasks with adequate resources.  He pledged Indonesia’s full support for the Mission and welcomed the dispatch of a UNAMI team to explore the possibility of deploying staff to a new location in Basra.


MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) shared the positive and negative assessments of the previous speakers and strongly welcomed the positive and encouraging developments highlighted by the United States Ambassador.  He hoped that those developments would continue, and said it was the responsibility of the Council to “give oxygen” to that process.  There was now an opportunity that should not be missed.  One had to move quickly and decisively in building a national compact and a shared vision of the future, as a people and a nation.  The Iraqi people had the responsibility for the national political process, but the United Nations now had an extended role to play.  For that to happen, it was crucial that the Organization was afforded the necessary resources and space to implement its mandate.  The ongoing dialogue between Iraq and its neighbours was also crucial.


He expressed concern at the humanitarian situation.  Italy had recently given more than $4.4 million for assistance to internally displaced persons in Iraq and refugees in Syria and Jordan.  Italy, as co-chair of the donor committee of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, would convene a meeting in Bari towards the end of October, in order to review the terms of reference of the Fund.  The goal of the review was to ensure strong Iraqi ownership.


JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) said the threat of complete civil war and regional destabilization had not diminished in Iraq, and it was still clear that the violence there could not be resolved by force alone.  There must be legislative progress, strengthened institutions of law and order, greater respect for fundamental rights and other work towards reconciliation.  In recent months, it had become even clearer that Iraq’s troubles had international implications, and Belgium, therefore, supported the meetings that were taking place on the international and regional levels.  The partnership with the international community should strengthen the Iraqi Government and make some difference in the daily life of Iraqis.  He further supported an expanded role for the United Nations in Iraq.


LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that, despite some improvements, the country was still facing immense challenges and he agreed with the approach proposed by the Secretary-General to meet them.  The Government and other parties in Iraq bore the greatest responsibility, but the international community had a large role to play.  He was looking forward, in that context, to an enhanced role for the United Nations and to the start of work of the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  All efforts should be made to provide UNAMI with security, particularly on the part of the Multinational Force and the Iraqi Government.  Regional cooperation was also crucial.


ALFREDO SUESCUM ( Panama) said the humanitarian situation in Iraq, as a consequence of the violence, was of great concern.  Millions of Iraqis had been obliged to leave their homes and many of them were living in miserable circumstances.  The United Nations must take up a more active role in order to improve the Government’s ability to respond to the needs of its people.  UNAMI should be impartial, but not neutral.  It should take into account all political and religious sectors.  That was the only way in which a reduction of violence could be achieved and internally displaced persons and refugees allowed to return home.


He said assistance in national reconciliation required a true commitment on the part of the international community in rebuilding the country’s institutions.  He called on the United Nations to continue to play an active and inclusive role in Iraq.  Stressing the important role of Iraqi leaders, he said they needed political courage, because it took courage to be involved in dialogue, and only through dialogue could violence be reduced, and only through reducing violence could respect for human rights be strengthened.  In conclusion he expressed the hope that that the neighbouring countries would continue to support stability in the region.


DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa) said that, positive developments notwithstanding, he was gravely concerned at the security situation, which remained precarious.  Any resolution to the conflict had to include all parties and dialogue with all neighbouring States.  In that regard, he welcomed the upcoming meeting of neighbouring States to be held in Istanbul, because regional cooperation was necessary in ensuring stability in Iraq and the entire region.  The continuing humanitarian situation also required international attention.


Disturbed by reports of the activities of military contractors, he called upon all those in Iraq to exercise extreme caution and far tighter regulations.  Resolution 1770 (2007) was testimony to the determination of the international community to assist Iraq to move beyond the current crisis.  The United Nations could play a particular role regarding national reconciliation, as it not only enjoyed good relations with all parties, but could also rely on past experience.  However, the expanded role of UNAMI, as foreseen, could only be realized as circumstances permitted.  The safety of United Nations personnel had to be an overriding consideration.  The Council had a responsibility to ensure that the powers granted to the Multinational Force were exercised in a manner consistent with its resolutions and that the country’s natural resources were exploited to the benefit of the Iraqi people.


JOHN SAWERS ( United Kingdom), quoting the Secretary-General’s report, said there was now an opportunity that should not be missed.  Over the last eight months, Iraqi security forces and the Multinational Force -– to which the United Kingdom was the second largest contributor -- had made a significant and positive impact on the security in Iraq.  Those developments needed to be followed up by political steps towards national reconciliation.  He encouraged Iraqi leaders to build on the progress made during the August leadership conference and encouraged further agreement on key political issues.  He welcomed the priority the new Special Representative would give to the national dialogue.


Iraq would not succeed without the full backing of its neighbours and States in the region, he said, and he welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a secretariat for regional cooperation.  The international community must also play its part.  The European Union had committed itself to more active support of Iraq and United Nations efforts.


He said that, as a result of progress made in training Iraqi security forces, he expected provincial Iraqi control in Basra province within two months.  That would complete the transfer of security to Iraqi control in the four southern provinces that had been under British responsibility.  British forces would then focus on training and mentoring, securing supply routes and policing the Iraq-Iran border.  The United Kingdom planned to move to a second stage of overwatch by early 2008, when it would have fewer troops that largely focused on training and mentoring.  In parallel, his country would be supporting economic reconstruction work, including by helping establish a new Basra Development Commission.  International support to provincial authorities was important.  The United Kingdom was also working closely with the United Nations to facilitate the establishment of a United Nations presence in Basra.


JUSTIN BIABAROH-IBORO ( Congo) said the Secretary-General’s report presented a mixed review of the situation in Iraq.  Given the continued violence, it was imperative that the Government take measures to increase stability.  Positive developments should be taken as an opportunity to end the sectarian tensions and make political progress.  He called on the Multinational Force to take care not to incur civilian casualties during their operations, and he welcomed an expanded United Nations role in the country and a greater constructive involvement of neighbouring countries.  He called for solidarity from the international community in providing support to Iraq in the effort of its stabilization, and welcomed the appointment of a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General.


PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) condemned all the acts of violence that continued to have a devastating effect on almost every aspect of life in Iraq, and urged sustained improvement in security, protection of civilians and humanitarian conditions.  It was important, however, not to lose sight of progress that had been achieved through initiatives at the national, regional and international level.  An expanded presence and mandate for the United Nations was, therefore, welcome, and he reaffirmed his country’s unambiguous support for United Nations endeavours on the ground, as well as its role in the International Compact with Iraq.


He said regional actors should play a more active role in promoting Iraq’s stability.  He, therefore, looked forward to the next meeting of Iraq’s neighbours, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey next month, hoping it would enhance regional confidence-building and dialogue.  Most important were Iraqi Government efforts towards stability, and he encouraged all parties in the country to work towards political compromise.  It was also important that all possible efforts be taken to address the increasing suffering of displaced Iraqis.  Appropriate efforts were also needed to alleviate the heavy burden carried by neighbouring countries, particularly Jordan and Syria.


Council President LESLIE K. CHRISTIAN (Ghana), speaking in his national capacity, said the situation in Iraq remained challenging, and the success of UNAMI’s work would largely depend on the willingness of Iraqis themselves to bury their differences for the sake of peace.   Ghana was encouraged by a series of legislative initiatives by the Iraqi leadership, aimed at breaking the impasse in the political process, as well as the effort by the Constitutional Review Committee to submit its final report to the Council of Representatives by the end of the year.


He said Ghana also welcomed the steps taken by the Secretary-General, including his September meeting with the participants of the expanded neighbours meetings, aimed at mobilizing regional support and cooperation, as well as the progress of the International Compact with Iraq.  In that regard, he welcomed the creation of the Compact secretariat and the administrative and technical support provided on an interim basis by the United Nations, the World Bank and other development partners.  Also important was the six-month work plan being developed to streamline the implementation of the International Compact.


It was his delegation’s expectation that the next meeting of Iraq’s neighbours, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, would contribute to the satisfactory resolution of such issues as energy, refugees, security, which had far-reaching regional and global repercussions.  In light of recent ethnic tensions along Iraq’s borders, Ghana appealed to all sides to exercise restraint, and called on the country’s neighbours to continue to play constructive roles in the quest for durable peace.


Ultimately, peace, reconciliation and unity in Iraq could only be achieved and sustained by the Iraqis themselves, he said in conclusion.  It was his hope that the collective endeavours of UNAMI, the Multinational Force and neighbouring States would lead to the outcome the people of Iraq and the international community desired, namely, stability, unity and reconciliation in Iraq, in the interest of world peace and security.


HAMID AL-BAYATI ( Iraq) said UNAMI’s expansion had enjoyed wide acceptance by the Iraqi Government.  The main challenges to Iraq were still present, “but their danger has begun to decline”.  The first challenge was terrorism and the means to confront it.  The security plans carried out by the Iraqi army with the assistance of the Multinational Force had contributed to isolating the terrorists in separate parts of Iraq.  The remnants of al-Qaida along with the Saddamists had suffered continued defeats.  Terrorist activities had significantly declined and the threat of civil war had been reduced.


He said a second challenge was a shattered infrastructure and weak economy.  It was incumbent on the Government of Iraq to launch ambitious plans for comprehensive reconstruction to provide the necessary services and rebuild the economy on a sound and modern basis.  Iraq could not accomplish that goal without the effective assistance of the international community.  The International Compact, launched at Sharm el-Sheikh in May 2007, would play a significant role.  The third challenge was achieving national reconciliation, which was, as Iraq’s Prime Minister had told the General Assembly, the collective responsibility of political powers, intellectual leaders, religious leaders, the educated, civil society organizations and all the active powers in the Iraqi arena.


He said that, despite those challenges, the Iraqi Government was continuing the reconstruction process.  The 2008 budget had allocated $10.5 billion to investment programmes and the budget for the provinces had increased by 25 per cent.  The investment law that would transfer the Iraqi economy from a centralized one to a market economy had been approved and a draft law on a fair distribution of Iraqi’s oil revenues had been completed.  The Government was also working on strengthening the purchasing power of Iraqi citizens and raising salaries of current and retired employees.


There was a concern about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation due to refugees and internally displaced persons.  His Government was working hard to create suitable conditions for the return of displaced persons through confronting illegal activities, regardless of their sectarian or political affiliation.  However, the problems also required large contributions from concerned international organizations.  He hoped that the upcoming visit of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on Torture and other Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment would achieve positive results in reinforcing and protecting human rights in Iraq.


UNAMI would have an important role in national dialogue and reconciliation, elections and assisting in constitutional review, he continued.  It would also assist in achieving compromise regarding internal borders and facilitating regional dialogue concerning border security, energy and refugees.  Those issues should be addressed with the previous approval of the constitutionally elected Iraqi Government.  The effective implementation of UNAMI’s mandate would no doubt require the return of the specialized agencies, funds and programmes to work in Iraq and to increase their staff in the field.


He said Iraq must be capable of advancing itself, and should be released from the legacy of its former regime and be liberated from those financial burdens.  The country was still suffering from the heavy burden of compensating for the Kuwait invasion by the Saddam regime.  It had paid more than $22 billion and continued to pay.  In several letters to the Council, the Government had requested suspension at the present time of deductions, and reduction of the proportion of deductions to a level that Iraq could maintain, given its current situation.  That would be achieved in coordination with the Compensation Committee until the matter was addressed at an international conference or resolved bilaterally between Iraq and the countries concerned.  He hoped the Council would respond positively to that request.


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For information media • not an official record