21 January 2008
Security Council
SC/9231

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

Security Council

5823rd Meeting* (AM)


2008 ‘WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY’ FOR IRAQ, MUST NOT BE LEFT ALONE TO TACKLE SECURITY,


STRUcTURAL, POLITICAL CHALLENGES, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

 


Special Representative Staffan De Mistura Describes UN Priority Areas,

Says Recent Reduction in Violence Will Not Last Absent Political Consensus


The year 2008 was a window of opportunity for Iraq, but its Government could not be left alone to tackle the structural, political and security challenges it faced, despite recent improvements, Staffan De Mistura, the new special Representative for that country, told the Security Council this morning.


Briefing on recent developments and the activities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), he said the priority areas included assisting the Government of Iraq in resolving disputed internal boundaries, helping returnees and entering the debate on the timeliness and preconditions for provincial elections, all of that in parallel with focusing on supporting Iraq’s international partnership under the Compact and advancing regional dialogue.  The United Nations had a new and enlarged team in place that would give UNAMI, security permitting, the opportunity to be helpful at a crucial moment in time.  Everything done must be for the empowerment of the Iraqis.  “Iraqis set the agenda, the Organization helps in driving it.”


The nature of the main challenges in Iraq was largely unaltered, he said, with the political and security terrain complex.  Recent improvements, however, could not be ignored.  The notable decline in hostile activities could be credited to the cumulative effect of increased deployment of multinational force troops, the ceasefire declared by Muqtada al-Sadr, the role of the Awakening Councils and increased cooperation with neighbours, as well as “Iraqi fatigue”.  However, absent a political consensus on the most foundational elements of the Iraqi State -- currently tenuous -- the Iraqis would achieve no lasting solution on the reduction of violence.   The Organization had a narrow opportunity for select initiatives that could help embolden the timid beginnings of a national dialogue, to ensure that the window was not lost.  It would, however, never talk to Al-Qaida, “because they killed our people and others”, he added.


He said there had been four positive developments:  the security surge; the economic surge; the political surge; and the surge of United Nations activities.  However, the concerns were how to sustain that progress, and the shortness of time.  The Secretary-General was determined to ensure that the work of all parties of the United Nations system was closely coordinated with the Government.  In order to do that, the United Nations required an increased presence, an ear on the ground and outreach to the communities.  He believed that even those who were critical, even resentful, over what they perceived to be the United Nations past record in Iraq were ready and welcoming for an energetic, centre-stage role for the Organization.


Speaking on behalf of the Multinational Force in Iraq, the representative of the United States said the number of security incidents had fallen to early 2005 levels and monthly attacks against civilians and security forces had been reduced by 60 per cent since June 2007, thanks to the decreased capabilities of Al-Qaida and the increased capacity of the Iraqi and military police.  Seventy-seven per cent of the Iraqi armed units were ready to execute and sustain operations on their own.  The Anbar Awakening had turned the tide against Al-Qaida.  Attacks plummeted to less than 6 per cent of the total, but suicide bombers still entered Iraq through Syria and the Iranian Islamic Revolution continued to train and equip Shiite extremists.


He said UNAMI had demonstrated leadership and, in recent months, had contributed substantially to helping develop Iraq and achieve the initiatives called for in the International Compact.  Solid progress was now being made.  Hope was returning to Baghdad.  Some 30,000 Iraqis had been able to travel to Mecca for the Haj.  It was crucial to channel that hard-won momentum into long-term success, not only for the Iraqi people, but also for the region and the international community.


Iraq’s representative said his Government was determined to continue efforts towards national reconciliation in order to reinforce social cohesion and to avoid civil war.  He thanked host countries and international organizations for helping to ease the humanitarian crisis of Iraqi refugees abroad and internally displaced persons due to sectarian violence.  The Iraqi Government was determined to confront and defeat terrorism and to restore security and stability throughout Iraq.  Efforts of the Iraqi political and religious leadership had led to a ceasefire by the militias.  Further, the Government had worked to rid the country’s security organs of corruption and, thus, rebuild confidence between the security sector and citizens.


He invited all “brotherly and friendly” countries to reopen their embassies in Iraq.  The Government was also keen on reforming the Iraqi economy and was determined to use those revenues to improve the Iraqi people’s standard of living and prosperity.  While working towards development and prosperity, the Iraqi Government and people were requesting that the percentage of compensation from Iraqi oil revenues be reduced from 5 per cent to 1 per cent, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, and that Iraqi debt issues be addressed.


He welcomed continued support for the International Compact with Iraq and for the Government’s efforts to provide such basic services as electricity, clean water, fuel, health care and service-sector development.  The Iraqi Government was keen on strengthening the United Nations role in Iraq through increased field presence.


Speakers in the ensuing debate welcomed progress made in the security sector, but warned that such progress was fragile and should be supported by progress in the political area.  Achieving progress would depend on whether political leaders would place the national interest above all else, China’s representative warned.


Many speakers stressed the importance of strengthened relationships between Iraq and neighbouring countries in the interest of Iraq and the region.  The International Compact remained an important framework for the partnership of the international community with Iraq, they said.  The growing humanitarian crisis, including the enormous number of refugees and internally displaced persons, was a matter of concern to many.


Although progress in security had been achieved, the representative of the Russian Federation warned that declaring victory was premature because there were no guarantees that reductions in violence would continue.  As for the Awakening Councils, he said Iraq did not need new armed groups, but a strong army and police.  He was concerned about private security companies, which operated outside of international humanitarian law.


Noting that conditions in Iraq had been the direct result of “the siege, followed by the invasion and occupation through which the occupation forces have destroyed political, administrative and cultural institutions”, Council President Libya, speaking in his national capacity, said reconciliation and dialogue among Iraqis required a clear horizon for an end to occupation, as occupation was a major bone of contention among Iraqi factions.


The representatives of France, Burkina Faso, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Viet Nam, South Africa, Croatia, Italy, Panama, Belgium and Costa Rica also spoke.


The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 12:20 p.m.


Background


As the Security Council considered the situation in Iraq today, it had before it the Secretary-General’s report pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1770 (2007) on the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).  The report presents a summary of key political developments since the last report (document S/2007/608), including regional and international events concerning Iraq.


The Secretary-General observes that the reduction in the overall number of attacks reported is a welcome development, but that the political process has not shown the degree of progress for which many had hoped.  His Special Representative will continue to direct UNAMI good offices towards encouraging genuine engagement by the leaders of Iraq on the core political disagreements.  The Special Representative is also closely reviewing every aspect of the Mission’s work.


According to the Secretary-General, it is encouraging that there is some movement on the ad hoc support mechanism agreed at the Istanbul ministerial conference.  He called, however, on the Government of Iraq and the neighbouring countries to cooperate closely with UNAMI to ensure that that mechanism can provide a useful function so sorely needed to make forthcoming meetings of the expanded neighbours’ group more productive.


The Secretary-General welcomes the decision to establish a Baghdad-based policy group to coordinate the work of the United Nations country team and the International Compact with Iraq.  He is also pleased by the prompt reaction of the country teams to the request by the Government of Iraq to support its ministries in assisting those refugees and internally displaced persons who have made the voluntary choice of returning to their place of origin.


Noting Prime Minister Al-Maliki’s position that efforts should be made to progressively guide the relationship between the Government and the United Nations towards a normalized format, outside the purview of Chapter VII of the Charter, the Secretary-General states that all of the efforts of the United Nations are intended to uphold the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, but that the timing of such a development is the prerogative of the Security Council.


Briefing


STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, said he had arrived in Baghdad on 11 November last year and had since been reviewing every aspect of the Mission’s work to identify priority areas where efforts could be intensified and concrete solutions could be produced, national reconciliation being both the guiding principle and end goal.  Today’s report provided an account of UNAMI’s more results-oriented activities.  UNAMI’s modus operandi had been to monitor emerging trends and propose carefully chosen initiatives.  Priority areas included assisting the Government of Iraq in resolving disputed internal boundaries, helping returnees and entering the debate of the timeliness and preconditions for provincial elections, all of that in parallel with focusing on supporting Iraq’s international partnership under the Compact and advancing regional dialogue.


He said the United Nations had a new and enlarged team in place that would give UNAMI, security permitting, the opportunity to be helpful at a crucial moment in time.  Everything done must be for the empowerment of the Iraqis.  “Iraqis set the agenda, the Organization helps in driving it.”


The nature of the main challenges in Iraq was largely unaltered, he said, with the political and security terrain complex.  Recent improvements, however, could not be ignored.  The notable decline in hostile activities could be credited to the cumulative effect of increased deployment of Multinational Force troops, the ceasefire declared by Muqtada al-Sadr, the role of the Awakening Councils and increased cooperation with neighbours, as well as “Iraqi fatigue”.  However, absent a political consensus on the most foundational elements of the Iraqi State -- currently tenuous -- the Iraqis would achieve no lasting solution on the reduction of violence.   However, the past weeks had witnessed some tentative and overdue steps towards national reconciliation and inclusive political dialogue, namely the Justice and Accountability Law.


He said 2008 was a window of opportunity, but much was predicated on delivering basic services and security guarantees, as well as respecting the constitutional framework and advancing other legislation, such as the Amnesty Law.  The Government of Iraq could not be left alone to tackle the structural, political and security challenges.  The unremitting assistance of the international community, as well as of the United Nations, was required.  The Organization had a narrow opportunity for select initiatives that could help embolden the timid beginnings of a national dialogue, to ensure that the window was not lost.  It would, however, never talk to Al-Qaida, “because they killed our people and others”, he added.


He said the United Nations valued its ability to talk to all sides, to both formal and informal structures, while safeguarding its impartiality.  It could facilitate solutions that required mutual concessions by offering credibility and international legitimacy.  It could further offer technical assistance to build up the capacity of national institutions.


As for disputed internal boundaries, he said that the deadline for a referendum according to article 140 approached and preconditions had not been met.  The United Nations had been invited to provide technical assistance to concerned parties in reaching a peaceful solution to the question of some of the disputed internal boundaries, especially those in northern areas and a dispute resolution process would be developed within six months.  He then went on to discuss the Organization’s activities regarding refugees and internally displaced persons returns; health, in particular cholera; economic reconstruction; and regional dialogue.


He said the Secretary-General was determined to ensure that the work of all parties of the United Nations system was closely coordinated with the Government.  In order to do that, the United Nations required an increased presence, an ear on the ground and outreach to the communities.  While the proposal on a UNAMI integrated compound was under review, UNAMI was pre-positioned for an enhanced qualitative and quantitative presence in Iraq.  Plans to expand the role of the Erbil area office had been set in motion, and improvements had been initiated to the UNAMI compound to host upcoming expanded substantive activities.  A preliminary mission had been undertaken to Kirkuk.


Much was predicated on security constraints, for which the sustained backing by the international community was paramount, he said, thanking those Member States who had answered the call for replenishing the Distinct Entity Trust Fund.  However, the lack of a dedicated aircraft seriously hampered the mobility of the Mission.  UNAMI would pursue with its core mandate activities, but be alert for other openings that required timely action, priority adjustment, and “out of the box” solutions.  The Organization should show flexibility in adjusting current and potential priority areas.


In conclusion he said:  “We should remain sensitive and attuned to the needs on the ground and the shifting of debates.  We should manage expectations and maintain a dose of realism, and by that I mean pragmatism.”  He believed that even those who were critical, even resentful, over what they perceived to be the United Nations’ past record in Iraq were ready and welcoming for an energetic, centre-stage role for the Organization.  He said there had been four positive developments:  the security surge; the economic surge; the political surge; and the surge of United Nations activities.  However, the concerns were how to sustain that progress, and the shortness of time.


Statements


ZALMAY KHALILZAD (United States), speaking on behalf of the Multinational Force, said he was pleased to hear of the progress being made and the efforts of the leadership of Mr. de Mistura, particularly on issues associated with article 140.  He looked forward to efforts and contributions to meet the objectives of Security Council resolution 1770.  He was pleased that the Council had adopted resolution 1790 (2007) on 18 December to extend the Multinational Force mandate for another year and to allow Iraq to achieve the objective of an independent and sovereign State.  The United States shared the Iraqi Government’s goal of achieving a secure, stable democratic Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours.  For that reason, a year ago United States President George W. Bush had approved the increase of troops in Iraq.  Continued implementation of the New Way Forward Strategy, coupled with increased forces, had considerably improved the security situation.  The creation of a joint security station in key areas had enhanced the Iraqi forces’ ability to interact with local residents and obtain vital information on insurgents, a move that would hopefully lead to sustained stability.


The number of security incidents had fallen to early 2005 levels, he said.  Monthly attacks against civilians and security forces had been reduced by 60 per cent since June 2007, thanks to the decreased capabilities of Al-Qaida and the increased capacity of the Iraqi and military police.  Today, one could see the gains of the surge in forces.  The overall number of civilian causalities was now below the level in February 2006, prior to the mosque bombing.  The death toll in September 2007 was the lowest level since May 2003.  Sectarian attacks had decreased 90 per cent from January to December 2007 thanks to, among other factors, the disruption of insurgent networks.  Suicide attacks and car bombings had dropped by more than 50 per cent since March 2007.  There were currently 30 countries in Iraq participating in the coalition forces and UNAMI.  Nations beside the United States and Iraq had contributed 10,300 troops for the coalition forces and 450 for UNAMI.  Those troops played an indispensable role.  The Iraqi forces had conducted a surge in 2007, providing 100,000 Iraqi police and soldiers.  Seventy-seven per cent of the Iraqi armed units were ready to execute and sustain operations on their own.


The Iraqi Government now had the lead security responsibility for 9 of Iraq’s 18 provinces and it would, by year’s end, assume responsibility for the rest of the provinces.  Efforts towards reconciliation in the provinces had helped to significantly improve security and economic conditions there.  Some 80,000 local citizens had volunteered to fight extremists and protect their areas.  Some had formed neighbourhood watch groups.  The Anbar Awakening had turned the tide against Al-Qaida.  Attacks plummeted to less than 6 per cent of the total.  Life was returning to normal.  But, suicide bombers still entered Iraq through Syria and the Iranian Islamic Revolution continued to train and equip Shiite extremists.  Iraq had come a long way, but much work remained to be done.  Iraq faced challenges in several areas.  In 2008, the coalition would focus on such areas as developing ministerial capacity, improving the capacity of Iraqi forces, building logistics and training, and supporting expansion of the Iraqi forces.  The forces must foster an environment of cooperation, address corruption and financing, and lay the ground for elections.


This quarter, the Council of Representatives of Iraq overcame hurdles to pass the de-baathification reform bill and was now considering its ratification, he said.  In May, schools and clinics were re-opened in parts of Iraq.  Year-end inflation fell from 65 per cent in 2006 to 15 per cent in 2007.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was forecasting modest economic growth in Iraq.  He thanked UNAMI for its offer to coordinate regional meetings to set up a support mechanism in Baghdad.  That would address common security concerns.  UNAMI had also demonstrated leadership and, in recent months, had contributed substantially to help develop Iraq and achieve the initiatives called for in the International Compact.  Solid progress was now being made.  Hope was returning to Baghdad.  Some 30,000 Iraqis had been able to travel to Mecca for the Haj.  It was crucial to channel that hard-won momentum into long-term success, not only for the Iraqi people, but also for the region and the international community.


VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said resolution 1770 had assigned the United Nations the mandate to help Iraq progress.  In that regard, it was important that the Organization establish constructive contacts with the main political forces in Iraq.  Assisting Iraqis was only possible under a radically improved security situation.  Although the level of violence had been reduced, positive trends should be encouraged.  National reconciliation was the key, in that regard, and regional neighbours were of critical importance.  There was no alternative to establishing dialogue with neighbouring countries, he said, and welcomed progress in that regard, including dialogue with Syria and Iran.


However, declaring victory was premature, he said.  There were no guarantees that reductions in violence would continue.  Solving the problems of civil strife was only possible through national dialogue.  The role of the United Nations on establishing a broad dialogue was irreplaceable, in that regard.  As for the Awakening Councils, he said Iraq did not need new armed groups, but a strong army and police.  He expressed concern with the humanitarian situation, including returns of refugees and internally displaced persons.


The current report gave less information on the human rights situation than in the previous report, he said.  Nothing was said about the fate of the persons detained by the Multinational Force and Iraqi forces.  He shared concerns relating to private security companies, which operated outside of international humanitarian law.  The activities of such structures must be brought within a strict framework.  The Mission should continue efforts to establish a dialogue among all players regarding Kirkuk.


JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) said Iraq was still facing major political, economic security and humanitarian challenges, which carried risks for the region and the international community.  Pleased that the level of violence had declined, he hoped that trend would continue.  Despite progress, however, the level of violence was still too high and worsened the humanitarian situation.  Swift action was necessary on the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons.  The improvement in the security situation could only be sustained if it was strengthened by progress in the political sphere.


He said that, despite the 12 January law, the internal political process remained deadlocked.  Major laws such as the electoral reform law should, therefore, be adopted.  It was also important to continue political reforms under the International Compact.  Expressing his country’s full support for UNAMI, he said France had proposed a conference of inter-Iraqi understanding on neutral ground.  The process of meetings with neighbouring countries was important, as well.  He welcomed strengthening the United Nations presence throughout Iraqi territory and favoured the strengthening of the presence of the international community as a means for spreading security and health in the country.


MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) noted concerns in three areas listed in the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, including the country’s security situation, the process of political normalization and the assistance role of the United Nations.  Despite the Iraqi Government’s determination to control the cycle of violence, efforts seemed to be going nowhere.  However, that state of affairs did not stem from the inability of public authorities.  Rather, it was due more to flaws in internal political management.  Despite continued tribal confrontations, there had been a visible reduction in violence thanks to the efforts of the Multinational Force and cooperation with civil protection units.  Such efforts deserved support and tribute.  He also welcomed the signing of the memorandum of understanding between Iraq, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Kurdistan Democratic Party to cooperate with each other and their neighbours to achieve security and stability, secure borders and help refugees return home.


There was increasingly visible support on the ground for the United Nations, he said.  That was encouraging and boded well for the revitalization of State institutions.  Concerning UNAMI activities, he said he was satisfied with the results achieved under the aegis of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, particularly as it concerned easing tensions in political life.  He also welcomed the Special Representative’s facilitation role, under article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution to organize a referendum to lead to a decision on the status of Kirkuk.  He supported Government efforts to revise the Constitution and to help it organize future elections.  He noted with great interest and satisfaction efforts in the humanitarian arena.  UNAMI should be encouraged to do more to extend humanitarian aid to Basra and other areas and to help displaced persons and others in need of assistance.  He urged the Iraqi Government to ratify as soon as possible the agreement to establish the United Nations status with Iraq.


JOHN SAWERS ( United Kingdom) lauded the Iraqi authorities for the job they had done in assuming responsibility of the security and protection of Basra following the withdrawal of British troops.  Such efforts and progress must be supported.  National reconciliation was vital in that regard.  Political leaders must work on the basis of existing agreements to address such issues as constitutional challenges, hydrocarbon legislation and local elections.  He also lauded the constructive contribution of countries neighbouring Iraq.  The United Kingdom would work to sustain Iraq’s efforts towards peace and stability and would support European Union participation and efforts, in that regard.


LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that, due to the joint efforts of the Government and parties concerned, the level of violence was declining.  In order to consolidate the result, the Government and the various factions must work together in order to achieve progress in political dialogue, economic development and protection of human rights, among other things.  Achieving progress would depend on whether political leaders would place the national interest above all else.


He welcomed the strengthening of the relationship between Iraq and the neighbouring countries.  Strengthened cooperation was in the interest of Iraq and the region.  The international community must, therefore, give full support, in that regard.  The UNAMI mandate was being gradually implemented, with positive results, and it could contribute to the process of stability and development in Iraq.  Confronted with a complex political and security situation, UNAMI must strengthen consultations with the Government, seek to gain wide trust among the Iraqi population and facilitate national dialogue.  Hoping that the Government and the Multinational Force could provide security safeguards for UNAMI, he called upon the international community to continue to extend a helping hand to Iraq.


MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said he was concerned about continuing bomb attacks, but was encouraged by signs of improvement in the security situation.  All parties must recognize the importance of exerting additional efforts to achieve a permanent ceasefire.  He underlined the need for all parties to set aside differences and promote dialogues, in order to break the political impasse.  Resolution of constitutional issues would provide added stability and credibility for the Iraqi authorities.  Dialogue across religious, political and ethnic groups remained pertinent.  He welcomed, in that regard, the signing of an agreement by the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the Sadri Trend to prevent further violence between their supporters.  He further welcomed the convening of the first National Forum for Islamic Scholars and the cleric-led initiatives aimed at reducing tensions between Sunnis and Shiites.


He said regional cooperation was essential in addressing the security and humanitarian challenges.  The International Compact remained an important framework for the partnership of the international community with Iraq.  In that regard, he welcomed the establishment of a Baghdad-based policy group to coordinate the work of the United Nations country team and the International Compact.  He supported the intention of the Secretary-General to closely review every aspect of UNAMI’s work, in order to determine how progress could be made in implementing the expanded mandate it had been given in resolution 1770.


LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said the marked reduction in the number of violent incidents, the gradual assumption of security by the Iraqi authorities, the process of implementing article 140 of the Constitution and the reinforcement of the Jaysh al Mahdi ceasefire were positive developments.  However, he shared the Secretary-General’s concern over the daunting challenges Iraqis faced in their quest for peace, security and development.  Attacks against civilians, outbreaks of sectarian strife, lack of consensus in promulgating key legislation, escalating border tensions and the worsening humanitarian and human rights situation continued to pose serious challenges.  The United Nations role in the political process, constitutional support, electoral assistance, humanitarian aid and national reconciliation remained vital.  He commended the work of the World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for their activities in extremely difficult conditions.


He supported UNAMI’s expanded mandate under resolution 1770 and efforts of the parties concerned to advance the political process and promote national dialogue and reconciliation.  He stressed the importance of reinforcing the constitutional review process, disbanding militias and armed groups, curbing the illicit use of weapons, improving the livelihood of civilians, improving conditions for refugees and displaced persons, and strengthening the rule of law.  He encouraged the Iraqi Government to take steps to reduce poverty, increase public services, create jobs and strengthen institutions, adding that such steps were essential for creating a sound basis for effective and sustainable reconstruction.  He expressed hope that Iraq’s constructive cooperation and dialogue with countries in the region, such as Iran and Syria, on economic, security, energy and humanitarian issues would continue to help reduce violence, and that Turkey would enter into the same cooperation and dialogue, with a view towards easing border tensions and preventing further hostilities.


DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) expressed concern that the security situation in Iraq remained precarious.  According to the Secretary-General, there were 90 security incidents daily.  That was unacceptable.  The Secretary-General also cautioned in paragraph 68 of his report that attacks on civilians, such as the 12 December bombing in Amara, among others, were a sobering reminder that those using terrorism for political aims had no regard for human rights and human life.  An all-inclusive political process was needed for any solution in Iraq.  Adoption of the Justice and Accountability Law was a positive step to reconcile differences.  He expressed hope that Iraqi forces would find ways to reconcile their differences peacefully and constructively.  He supported efforts aimed at addressing violence and the issue of internally displaced persons.  He welcomed discussions between Iraq and its neighbours to secure stability.  Regional cooperation was necessary to achieve that end.


He had supported Council resolution 1790 to renew the Multinational Force in Iraq, saying its continued presence was necessary to support security and stability.  He expressed concern over the repeated findings of serious irregularities in the Development Fund for Iraq and sales of oil contracts that had not been acted upon.  He supported Council efforts to discuss the findings of the independent auditors and supported an expanded United Nations role in Iraq.  The United Nations had a particularly important role to play in national reconciliation in Iraq.  The United Nation not only enjoyed good relations with all countries involved, but it also had the advantage of drawing on best practices used in past conflicts.  The safety of United Nations personnel must be an overriding consideration.  Further, the funds of the Development Fund for Iraq must be used for the benefit of the Iraqi people.


MIRJANA MLADINEO ( Croatia) said the United Nations was uniquely placed to extend assistance to Iraq in promoting national dialogue and reconciliation, among other things.  The security indicators were encouraging, she said, welcoming the combined efforts of the national and multinational forces in that regard.  However, the recent string of violent attacks was a reminder of the precarious security situation.  Among the multiple challenges Iraqis were facing, improving security and the human rights situation should remain a priority.  Without serious advances in the political area, improvements in the security situation could be lost.  The constitutional revision process and legislation on hydrocarbon resources, among other things, remained among the main challenges.


It was equally important to continue positive trends in regional cooperation, she said, and welcomed in that regard the outcome of the ministerial meeting in Istanbul.  The growing humanitarian crisis was a matter of concern, as the continuing violence hindered ensuring the meeting of basic needs.  The challenges faced by Iraq generated risks for the region and beyond.  Saying that the United Nations was ready for a centre-stage role in Iraq, she commended the efforts of United Nations staff who worked under dangerous circumstances.


ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) said his country had always supported the role of the United Nations in assisting national reconciliation through the dialogue the Organization maintained with a whole range of political actors and civil society representatives, as well as through technical assistance in the electoral and constitutional fields.  As for the humanitarian situation, he was extremely concerned by the high number of refugees in neighbouring countries and internally displaced persons in Iraq.   Italy had contributed more than $4.2 million for activities to benefit Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons in Iraq, Syria and Jordan.


He said the Secretary-General had mentioned activities supporting reconstruction through the use of funds from the International Reconstruction Facility Fund for Iraq.  As Co-President of the Fund’s Donor Committee, Italy had convened informal meetings in Italy with the participation of Iraq, United Nations agencies and the World Bank, as well as with major donors committed to Iraqi reconstruction that already had their facilities on the ground.  Those meetings would precede the half-year meeting of the Donor Committee, scheduled to take place in Baghdad late March.  The aim was to create as many synergies as possible on the ground, through the optimization of existing facilities and the use of coordination mechanisms provided by the International Compact.


GIANCARLO SOLER TORRIJOS ( Panama) noted the strengthening of the International Compact with Iraq in the past few months and the ministerial meetings held in Baghdad and Istanbul.  While progress had been slow in strengthening political and social institutions, he expressed hope that the Iraqi leadership would reach consensus.  The October report of UNAMI described the serious humanitarian situation in Iraq, including the 16 per cent rise in the number of internally displaced persons.  It was increasingly urgent to achieve security and stability and to address the issue of civilians in the Awakening Councils and their integration into regular security forces.  He was optimistic about reports that showed that violence was declining.  The adoption of Council resolution 1770 illustrated that the United Nations would have more active and focused involvement in Iraq.  He urged the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to promote a more inclusive dialogue that would lead to lasting reconciliation in Iraq.


JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) said the security situation in Iraq continued to improve.  The decline in sectarian violence and terrorist attacks was encouraging and was the result of the efforts of the Iraqi Government and people.  He expressed hope that similar progress would be achieved in managing hydrocarbon resources, implementing article 140 of the Constitution and revising the Constitution.  The International Compact for Iraq played a vital role in that regard.  The international community must continue to encourage efforts in that direction and must work to help improve the living conditions of Iraqis, as well as encourage greater cooperation between Iraq and its neighbours.  The ministerial meeting in Istanbul had led to positive results concerning internally displaced persons and border security.  He stressed the leadership role of the United Nations in Iraq and reaffirmed Belgium’s support for the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.


Speaking in his national capacity, Council President GIADALLA A. ETTALHI ( Libya) said conditions in Iraq had been the direct result of “the siege, followed by the invasion and occupation through which the occupation forces have destroyed political, administrative and cultural institutions”.  Stemming the bloodshed in Iraq, ensuring its territorial integrity and independence, as well as control over national resources and participation of all citizens in national affairs without any marginalization, were first and foremost the responsibility of the Iraqis, “who are fully able to do so”.  The international community, in particular the immediate neighbours, must promote dialogue, reconciliation, and the diffusing of any tensions among Iraqis.  The United Nations Mission should take a central role in that regard.


He said reconciliation and dialogue among Iraqis required a clear horizon for an end to occupation, as occupation was a major bone of contention among Iraqi factions.  Welcoming the improvement in the security situation and the beginning of refugee returns, he hoped those developments would lead to improvement in the political process.   The private security companies were akin to mercenary companies and had behaved in a manner that could be called criminal.  Those who talked about human rights should examine the activities of those companies, he said.


Encouraging the Government of Iraq to persevere in outreaching to neighbouring countries, he said all resources in Iraq, both human and material, should be used for reconstruction.  He, therefore, supported the call for cancellation of all debts under the “oil-for-food” programme, as well as for cancellation of, or at least a moratorium on, all war compensation payments.  He also called for the return of those who had participated in the “brain drain” and expressed the hope that future reports would show the support by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in restoring the cultural heritage that had been pillaged.


HAMID AL-BAYATI ( Iraq) said the Iraqi Government was determined to continue efforts towards national reconciliation, to reinforce social cohesion and to avoid civil war.  There was active interaction among political figures and leaderships to advance the political process.  The Iraqi Council of Representatives had recently adopted the Justice and Accountability Law.  That was considered a very positive step towards achieving national reconciliation and healing past wounds.  The Council of Representatives was also considering ratifying the hydrocarbon law and the 2008 budget and the law of governorates.  The Iraqi Government had also signed a Declaration of Principles for long-term cooperation and friendship with the United States.  Iraqi Government efforts, in cooperation with the United Nations, during the second expanded meeting of foreign ministers of neighbouring States of Iraq held in November in Istanbul, had led to the endorsement of an ad hoc Baghdad-based support mechanism.  That mechanism should help to achieve security and stability in Iraq and the whole region and to implement what would be agreed upon by ministers.


He thanked host countries and international organizations for helping to ease the humanitarian crisis of Iraqi refugees abroad and internally displaced persons.  The Iraqi Government was determined to confront and defeat terrorism and to restore security and stability throughout the country.  Since last year, the Government had started a law enforcement plan within the framework of efforts to enforce the rule of law, promote and protect human rights and confront criminal and terrorist activities targeting innocent civilians.  That plan had brought positive results.  Dozens of the Al-Qaida leadership had been killed and many other Al-Qaida members seeking to provoke sectarian strife in Iraq had been detained.  Efforts of the Iraqi political and religious leadership had led to a ceasefire of the militias.  Further, the Government had worked to rid the country’s security organs of corruption and, thus, rebuild confidence between the security sector and citizens.  He noted the increase in the number of multinational forces and their role in stabilizing Iraq, reducing terrorist acts, implementing the law enforcement plan and deploying the Awakening forces in troubled areas.  The Iraqi Government was keen to assume responsibility for security in the Iraqi provinces and was working to increase the security forces’ preparedness to do so.


He invited all brotherly and friendly countries to reopen their embassies in Iraq and welcomed the United Nations recent decision to reopen offices in Al-Basra, in order to provide the Iraqi people with assistance in accordance with Security Council resolution 1770.  The Government was also keen on reforming the Iraqi economy and was determined to use those revenues to improve the Iraqi people’s standard of living and prosperity.  The Iraqi Council of Representatives had adopted a series of measures, among them salary increases for retired and civil servants.  It had also approved social security for the poor, orphans and the disabled.  Further, the Government sought to make full use of the 2008 national budget to execute projects and development plans.  It had declared 2008 a year for investment and development.  It recently organized a conference, under the auspices of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, to discuss ways to combat corruption.


While working towards development and prosperity, the Iraqi Government and people were requesting that the percentage of compensation from Iraqi oil revenues be reduced from 5 per cent to 1 per cent, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.  Iraq was also working with Kuwait to reach suitable solutions and with other countries to resolve the Iraqi debt issues, according to measures of the Paris Club.  He thanked Serbia and other countries for cancelling Iraq’s debt and called on brotherly nations to follow suit.  He welcomed continued support for the International Compact with Iraq and for the Government’s efforts to provide such basic services as electricity, clean water, fuel, health care and service-sector development.  The Iraqi Government was keen on strengthening the United Nations role in Iraq through an increased field presence and through continued cooperation with UNAMI.  The invitation of the Ministries of Justice, Defence, Interior, and Labour and Social Affairs in Baghdad and Kurdistan addressed to the UNAMI human rights office to visit detention facilities and prisons clearly illustrated the Iraqi Government’s desire to maintain relations based on cooperation and coordination with UNAMI in the different areas of its mandate, without prejudice to the sovereign Iraqi decisions.  Further, Iraq was willing to help build UNAMI’s new headquarters, so it could fulfil its mandate in line with Council resolution 1770.


JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said the humanitarian situation in Iraq was still disturbing, but he welcomed progress achieved in establishing security and the rule of law.  He welcomed the Special Representative’s assertion that 2008 would be a year of sovereignty and responsibility for Iraq, as well as the willingness expressed by Iraq’s Government to move in that direction.


He said Iraq had expressed the will to take ownership of the national process and had been replacing international forces in several provinces.  The Prime Minister, in a letter to the Council in December, had asked for UNAMI’s mandate extension for a year, with the provision that it could be terminated earlier at the request of Iraq.  He welcomed Iraq’s expressed desire to stop being considered under the provisions of Chapter VII and to normalize its relations with other countries.


Concluding Remarks


In concluding remarks, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Mr. DE MISTURA thanked, on behalf of all United Nations staff in Iraq, speakers for their positive comments and encouragement.  Those comments would be further studied upon his return to Baghdad. “2008 will be special and crucial for all of us,” he said.


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*     The 5822nd Meeting was closed.


For information media • not an official record