14 November 2008
Security Council
SC/9500

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

Security Council

6016th Meeting (AM)


SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE, BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL, CITES


FALLING VIOLENCE IN CALLING ON IRAQIS TO BUILD LONG-TERM STABILITY


Following a significant reduction of violence in 2008, Iraqis must continue to seize the momentum to build long-term stability, Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, said in a briefing to the Security Council this morning.


“The Government of Iraq should be commended for the progress so far achieved,” he said during a briefing that preceded statements by the representative of the United States, on behalf of the Multinational Force (the coalition), and the representative of Iraq.  “It will now be called upon to deliver services, security guarantees, conditions for free and fair elections, credible and independent institutions and to resolve tensions among its various communities.”


Calling on the international community to stand firm in its support and constructive re-engagement with the country, he pledged that the United Nations would continue to be by the Iraq’s side in “this delicate and challenging transition to stability”.


Introducing the Secretary-General’s report, he said that the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) had focused in recent months on supporting electoral preparations, laying the seeds for a resolution to disputed internal boundaries, supporting national development strategies and facilitating Iraq’s partnership with the international community and its neighbours.


He emphasized progress made in organizing local elections, saying that, in order to pursue and sustain its steadily rising presence and activities, UNAMI needed security support and protection from both the host country and Member States, in addition to financial and logistical support from the latter.


The representative of the United States said that, since June 2007, attacks had decreased by 86 per cent and civilian deaths due to violence by 80 per cent.  Deaths among the Iraqi security forces had fallen by 84 per cent and coalition military deaths by 88 per cent.  Coalition and Iraqi security forces had degraded the capabilities of Al-Qaida in Iraq and local militia groups, as evidenced by the 81 per cent decrease in improvised explosive device explosions and a 72 per cent decrease in suicide bombings.


He noted, however, that the flow of foreign fighters and lethal aid into Iraq remained a matter of concern, maintaining that Syria remained the primary gateway for foreign terrorists moving into Iraq.  It should take additional steps to reduce that threat.  In addition, Al-Qaida in Iraq remained a significant threat, as did Iranian surrogate militants.


Describing the increased capability of the Iraqi security forces, including the somewhat lagging expansion of the air force, navy and national police, he said continuing political and economic support from the coalition and the international community would remain critical to the success of Iraqi efforts to build a stable end secure country.


Iraq’s representative said that, in order to maintain his country’s security improvements, the Government would continue training and equipping its security forces.  The tangible improvement in the political and security situation had led to increased economic growth, which was expected to reach 8 per cent by the end of 2008.  As a result, $19 billion of the budget had been allocated to investment activities for all ministries.  An additional $812 million had been allocated to a social security network, including $76 million for displaced families.


He said the Government was also keen to promote a new culture of respect for human rights, based on tolerance and mutual acceptance.  A national system to monitor human rights violations through the Human Rights Ministry had revealed many such violations.  Because of those, the Ministry of Interior had dismissed 27,690 officers and another 4,012 were to be put on trial.


Emphasizing the Government’s commitment to full cooperation with neighbouring countries to seek solutions to all issues of mutual interest, he encouraged all Arab countries to assist Iraq’s progress through debt forgiveness and to reduce the compensation payments imposed on Iraq due to the crimes committed by the dictatorial former regime.


In the discussion that followed those presentations, Council members welcomed the decrease in violence and agreed with most of the Secretary-General’s recommendations, including UNAMI’s priorities for reconciliation and further stabilization.  Many speakers stressed the importance of strengthening human rights protections for minorities and detainees, providing more support to Iraqi refugees and helping displaced persons return home voluntarily.


Libya’s representative said the most important requirement for stability was an end to foreign occupation, the continuation of which, under any form, would be divisive.


He and several other speakers also expressed concern about the recent incursion into Syria which had resulted in civilian deaths.  That incursion was a violation of the United Nations Charter.


Also speaking today were the representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), United Kingdom, Italy, Russian Federation, Belgium, Indonesia, Croatia, Viet Nam, Burkina Faso, China, Panama, South Africa and Costa Rica.


The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:35 p.m.


Background


Before the Council was the report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1830 (2008) on Iraq (document S/2008/688), the first quarterly update since the Council requested reporting on implementation of the resolution it adopted in August.  It describes recent improvements in the security situation as fragile and stresses that national reconciliation remains the main priority for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and other United Nations entities in the country.


According to the report, the passage of the provincial election law on 24 September was a milestone, as it instituted an open-list system and ensured female representation on governorate councils.  In addition, the Independent High Electoral Commission demonstrates the ability to mobilize a nationwide voter registration update without serious security or logistical problems.  However, there is still potential for election-related violence and instability, as witnessed recently in Mosul.  It is, therefore, essential to organize the elections in a secure environment and in a transparent manner.


UNAMI continues to devote attention to disputed internal boundaries as an important nexus of a broader set of issues relating to elections, the Constitution, human rights, reconstruction and development, the report says.  To facilitate dialogue among all parties, the Mission has conducted research on the related socio-economic, political and security environments.


The report strongly encourages the Iraqi authorities to match gains in security with strong steps to bolster the human rights protection system, while welcoming the ratification of the anti-torture Convention and the passage of a more permissive media law.  The Government is encouraged to continue its efforts to establish an independent human rights commission.


In other areas, UNAMI continues to support Iraq’s relations with its neighbours and other countries in the region in promoting an agenda of mutual cooperation and support, the report states.  As the country is increasingly able to fund its own reconstruction agenda, United Nations assistance in that area will focus on legislative and structural obstacles holding back budget execution and a healthy market economy.  The international community should coordinate closely with the Organization on investment priorities over the coming months so as to maximize the use of resources to boost Iraq’s self-reliance.


United Nations sector outcome teams will also support job creation initiatives integrated into reconciliation, demobilization and reintegration strategies, the report says.  They will also provide assistance targeted to the increasing returns of displaced persons.  Iraq may wish to increase its funds for humanitarian relief, but even so, there is a need for continuing donor support, particularly for Iraqi refugees in the region.


The report stresses that the United Nations continues to work in a complex security environment and still depends on Member States for security, logistical, operational and financial support.  The Organization, therefore, appeals for the legal arrangements for UNAMI security, and of the wider United Nations presence, to be maintained or amended, as necessary, in light of the outcome of the ongoing negotiations between Iraq and the United States on a status-of-forces agreement.


Briefings


STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, said that, following a reduction of violence and political gains in 2008, Iraqis should not relent in grasping the momentum towards long-term stability.  “The Government of Iraq should be commended for the progress so far achieved.  It will now be called upon to deliver services, security guarantees, conditions for free and fair elections, credible and independent institutions and to resolve tensions among its various communities.”  In the present critical period, the international community stood firm in its support and constructive re-engagement, and the United Nations would continue to be by the Iraqis’ side in “this delicate and challenging transition to stability”.


Introducing the Secretary-General’s report, he said that UNAMI, within its assistance for political dialogue and national reconciliation, had focused in recent months on supporting electoral preparations, laying the seeds for a resolution of disputed internal boundaries, supporting national development strategies and facilitating Iraq’s partnership with its neighbours and the international community.  With regard to security, there had been a steady reduction of violence, in spite of spikes, although the period had also seen some political tensions as a result of the initial stalemate over the provincial election law in July and issues of minority representation.  Electoral assistance had been the flagship of UNAMI’s current activities.


The electoral law, providing for country-wide elections in 14 out of 18 governorates, had been adopted on 24 September after requiring a major push by UNAMI to break the impasse in Parliament over the inclusion of an amendment on Kirkuk and to broker an even-handed resolution.  In addition to electoral assistance, the Mission’s activities in Kirkuk had been wide-ranging, comprising research on local conditions -- including various possible options for the city’s future administrative status -- humanitarian, reconstruction and human rights programmes and technical assistance to a new parliamentary committee established to recommend special arrangements for future elections in the region.  In parallel, UNAMI had advanced, through community consultations, the last phase of its analysis of the 15 other fault-line districts in northern Iraq.


The human rights office continued to focus on such challenges as the recent displacement of Christians, the forcible sale of property in Ninewa and minority representation, he said.  In the area of international relations, the country continued to make great strides and regional dialogue held much promise for 2009 in view of several Arab countries having reopened their embassies in Baghdad and a number of recent high-level visits.  UNAMI continued to engage in that area through the Ad Hoc Support Mechanism Unit.


Turning to recovery and reconstruction, he said the country was reaching a critical point, as security improved, expectations rose and a rising number of displaced persons returned home, and urged the Government to continue its effort to allocate national resources to maintain the momentum for recovery.  Iraq had entered into a new cooperation framework for United Nations assistance through 2010, shifting the focus away from investment in infrastructure to helping to mobilize its own substantial resources.  The remaining International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq funds would be invested in three United Nations initiatives for public sector reform, private sector development and decentralization of essential services.  The United Nations was also supporting the country’s reform of its costly public distribution system.


He said UNAMI had explored ways to increase its support to provincial authorities through the application of the principles of integrated United Nations missions and an enhanced presence throughout Iraq, starting with new presences in Najaf, Ramadi, Mosul, Kirkuk and Basra.  Many United Nations agencies had recently placed permanent senior-level staff in the country.  In order to pursue and sustain that level of presence and activities, the Mission needed security support and protection both from the host country and Member States, along with financial and logistical support from the latter.  The construction of a new integrated compound in Baghdad was key to the Organization’s continued presence.  UNAMI thanked the Government for having provided a site and welcomed the 2 November decision by the Council of Ministers to contribute an initial $25 million towards the compound’s estimated total cost of $100 million.


ZALMAY KHALILZAD ( United States), speaking on behalf of the Multinational Force in Iraq (the coalition), said the Iraqi Government and people, as well as the international community, could take pride in significant achievements, but work remained to be done.  Progress was fragile and reversible, making it critical that Iraq receive continued international support as it faced the challenges of rebuilding.  Those challenges included legitimate and peaceful provincial, district and national elections in 2009; the restoration of essential services; the return of approximately 4 million refugees and internally displaced persons; resolution of disputed internal boundaries, most notably in respect of Kirkuk; and constitutional review.


He said important progress had been achieved in the overall security situation, adding that attacks had decreased by 86 per cent since June 2007 and civilian deaths due to violence by 80 per cent.  Deaths among the Iraqi security forces had dropped by 84 per cent and coalition military deaths by 88 per cent.  Coalition and Iraqi security forces had degraded the capabilities of Al-Qaida in Iraq and other militia groups, as evidenced by the 81 per cent decline in improvised explosive device explosions and a 72 per cent decrease in suicide bombings.  The reduction in violence across northern Iraq could be attributed in part to the removal and displacement of key Al-Qaida in Iraq leaders.


The Government, with coalition assistance, had begun addressing the complex underlying ethnic and religious tensions that had contributed to the violence, he said, noting that coalition and Iraqi forces were maintaining their security gains even with the reduction of coalition forces to pre-surge levels.  However, the flow of foreign fighters and lethal aid into Iraq remained a matter of concern.  Syria remained the primary gateway for foreign terrorists moving into the country, and had taken insufficient action to combat the terrorist facilitation networks based on its territory.  Syria was urged to take additional steps to reduce that threat.  Al-Qaida in Iraq remained a significant threat, as did Iranian surrogate militants and the Jaish al Mahdi (Mahdi Army).  Iranian efforts to interfere in the Iraqi political process continued to frustrate reconciliation efforts and political developments.  “We are uncertain that Iran is committed to a peaceful and stable neighbour in Iraq, but more interested in exercising a veto on the future of the Iraqi people.”


Describing the increased capability of the Iraqi security forces, including the somewhat lagging expansion of the air force, navy and national police, he said continued political and economic support from the coalition and the international community would remain critical to the success of Iraqi efforts to build a stable end secure country.  The Multinational Force in Iraq was progressively transferring responsibility for security to the Government, and 13 of the country’s 18 provinces were now under Iraqi control.  A joint coalition-Iraqi effort was anticipated to assess conditions in and facilitate the transition of the remaining provinces.


He said the improvement in security had helped to foster political reconciliation.  The Iraqi Council of Representatives had unanimously passed a provincial elections law.  Sunnis, who had boycotted the 2005 provincial election, would compete for political power in provinces that once had been the heartland of the insurgency.  UNAMI remained deeply engaged in elections preparation.  He commended UNAMI’s plans to expand its footprint in Iraq and strongly supported the construction of the proposed United Nations compound in Baghdad.


Significant diplomatic gains had been made, with most countries in the region having normalized their diplomatic presence in Baghdad.  Syria and the League of Arab States had joined Iraq’s other neighbours in naming ambassadors, and others in the region were encouraged to follow their example.  Negotiations continued between the United States and the Iraqi Government on the transitioning relationship, “with a goal of a strong and strategic relationship with Iraq”, which would respect the sovereignty and serve the interests of both countries.  “The international community supports a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal and unified Iraq, and I call upon all parties to renew their commitment to assist the Government of Iraq in continuing the hard work to overcome the many challenges that remain.”


Statements


HAMID AL-BAYATI ( Iraq) said that, in order to maintain security gains, the Government would continue training its security forces and providing them with the necessary equipment.  The number of troops had increased from some 116,000 to 217,000.  The Government had taken over security responsibility from the Multinational Force in Al Anbar Province in September and in Babil and Wasit in October.  In total, it had now taken over security responsibility in 13 out of 18 provinces.  The number of families returning to Baghdad had reached 22,442, some 98,000 officers and soldiers of the former army had been returned to military service, and 51,000 members of the “Awakening” forces had been integrated into civilian life.


The adoption of the provincial council elections law of 24 September was one of the most significant legislative developments, he said, noting that 427 political entities, representing all segments of the population, would participate in local elections.  Article 50 of the law had been amended and adopted in order to guarantee equal representation to all minorities.


Tangible improvements in the political and security fields had led to increased economic growth, which was expected to reach 8 per cent by the end of 2008, he said.  The inflation rate had fallen from 16 per cent in 2007 to 12 per cent and the unemployment rate had dropped from 22 per cent to 17 per cent.  $19 billion of the budget had been allocated to investment activities for all ministries, and $812 million had been allocated to a social security network, including $76 million for displaced families.  The Ministry of Industry had recently signed a number of investment contracts with local, Arab and foreign companies to the value of $1 billion in order to diversify national income sources.  Oil production had increased by 11 per cent.


He said the Government had reduced the number of people deprived of water and sewage systems, and the production of electricity had increased significantly.  Having ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Iraq had started cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) to implement the new anti-corruption programme.  The Government was also keen to promote a new culture of respecting human rights, based on tolerance and mutual acceptance.  A national system to monitor human rights violations through the Human Rights Ministry had revealed many violations.  The Ministry of Interior had, therefore, dismissed 27,690 officers and another 4,012 were to be put on trial.


Underscoring his country’s commitment to full cooperation with neighbouring countries in seeking solutions to all questions of mutual interest, he pointed out that Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Syria and the United Arab Emirates had reopened their embassies in Baghdad.  The Arab League had appointed a new representative and the Organization of the Islamic Conference had reopened its offices.  As for the International Compact with Iraq, the Government, following the first review conference in Stockholm, had taken many steps to enhance national policies through the shared monitoring matrix.  In that regard, Iraq encouraged all Arab countries to help through debt forgiveness, and reduce the compensation imposed on Iraq due to the dictatorial former regime’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  Iraq welcomed the agreement reached with the Government of Kuwait to address the issue of compensation through bilateral negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations Compensation Commission.


GIADALLA A. ETTALHI ( Libya) expressed his satisfaction with the improved security situation, political and economic improvements and diplomatic relations.  All those developments gave reason for optimism, but Iraq and the international community had real challenges to overcome.  Some critical situations might be dormant but they must be addressed.  Despite improvements, the security situation remained fragile, as indicated by the targeting of Christians in Mosul.  It was inconceivable that the situation could be stabilized without national reconciliation, in which regard the most important requirement was an end to foreign occupation.  Continued occupation under any form would be divisive and might cause security setbacks.  The demarcation of internal borders and constitutional review were also required.


Expressing concern about human rights, he noted that serious and systematic violations persisted, including the assassination of journalists and politicians and attempts to impact the demographic composition of some regions, including the situation of Christians.  Libya welcomed the decrease in the number of detainees and hoped the Multinational Force would positively respond to efforts by UNAMI to maintain respect for international humanitarian law.  It was regrettable that many of those released by the Multinational Force had been re-detained by Iraqi forces.  Libya was also concerned that the Multinational Force had crossed the Syrian border, an act of aggression to which many civilians had fallen victim.  The action was a violation of the United Nations Charter and would contribute to increasing tensions in the region.


JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, called for a secure, stable, democratic, prosperous and unified Iraq where human rights would be respected.  The European Union was committed to Iraq’s independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.  It welcomed both the progress achieved in improving the security situation and the steps taken towards national reconciliation with the adoption of the law on provincial elections, which would be essential in reinforcing democracy and the rule of law.  The European Union noted the adoption of an amendment stipulating conditions for minority representation, and hoped elections would take place as planned in early 2009.  Moving forward, the national reconciliation process and constitutional review would remain priority challenges.


Encouraging further close cooperation between UNAMI and the Iraqi authorities, he expressed the hope that the Mission would continue advising the Government on political reforms.  The European Union remained concerned by the human rights situation and welcomed governmental actions in that area, and urged extra protection for all vulnerable groups.  It underlined the obligation of the Government and the international community to protect internally displaced Iraqis and help neighbouring countries cope with the burden of refugees.  The Iraqi Government should use its resources in the latter case.


He underscored the importance of maintaining an adequate security level to enable the effective functioning of the United Nations in Iraq.  To that end, the European Union noted with satisfaction that a number of neighbours and regional partners had honoured the commitments made in the final communiqué of the April 2008 Conference of Iraq’s Neighbouring Countries, in Kuwait, by increasing their representation in Baghdad.  Constructive engagement by those neighbours and partners remained essential for peace and stability, and all neighbours and partners were encouraged to follow suit.


Emphasizing the importance of the European Union’s renewed commitment to the rule of law via community assistance and various programmes and missions, he said the bloc also welcomed progress in negotiations on the cooperation trade agreement, which would help establish the first contractual relations between itself and Iraq, in addition to entering into a structured, regular political and technical dialogue.  The European Union remained committed to developing its partnership with Iraq through the principles of the International Compact.


JOHN SAWERS ( United Kingdom) said that, while Iraq must overcome serious challenges, there had been continued progress over the last quarter, including a decrease in violence to the same level as five years ago.  Iraqi forces now had security responsibility in 13 provinces.  National reconciliation was important to maintain that progress, and the United Kingdom shared concerns with regard to the violence against Christians in Mosul.  The passage of the election law had been a significant step forward, as the holding of peaceful elections would contribute to reconciliation.  Iraq’s political leaders had acknowledged the necessity of protecting minority rights.


Urging more regional engagement with Iraq, he said increased trade and investment could make an important contribution to stability and prosperity in the region.  External support for armed groups was unacceptable.  The Government of the United Kingdom supported the Government of Iraq, and British armed forces in southern Iraq would focus on training the Iraqi army and preparing Basra International Airport for transfer to Iraqi control.  After that, the United Kingdom’s relations with Iraq would become a normal, bilateral relationship.  As conditions improved, a close relationship with Iraq and international organizations would become increasingly important.  In that regard, the United Kingdom welcomed the Iraqi Government’s decision to provide financial support for UNAMI headquarters in Baghdad.


GIULIO TERZI DI SANT’AGATA (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said he recognized the recent achievements in Iraq and that ensuring the safety of the United Nations presence remained a priority.  Italy remained committed to assisting the security sector through programmes of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the country.  Political reconciliation was also a priority, in particular the constitutional process and the coming local elections.


Those elections must take place in a fair and transparent manner, he said, stressing that minority representation was a key element, as was the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons.  The Government of Italy had recently organized a meeting which had concluded that there was no place for militias in a stable Iraq.  That meant the security sector must be strengthened accordingly.  Italy pledged its continued support under the international framework.


VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation), while agreeing with the Secretary-General’s report about the improved security situation, said it was, nevertheless, “a bit early to toast victory”.  The Russian Federation expressed concern about recent flare-ups of violence that emphasized the fragility of the security situation.  Force alone could not be relied upon to cement stability.  Political reconciliation and the assurance of minority rights were crucial, as was the successful conduct of elections.  The Russian Federation called on the authorities to ensure the rights of minorities.


The recent United States raid in Syria had undermined possibilities for stability in the region, although the Government of Iraq had the right to insist on the integrity of its territory, he said.  The Russian Federation was helping Iraq stabilize and normalize, and called on others to contribute, as well.


JAN GRAULS (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union, said the past two years had been marked by progress on the security, political and humanitarian fronts and the local population was beginning to benefit from those improvements.  However, that progress should not mask remaining problems.  The recent attacks in Mosul and Baghdad were a reminder that daily security was often relative and constituted an obstacle to the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.  The upcoming provincial elections could also encourage violence.  Belgium encouraged the Iraqi Government to protect human rights, which was just as important as establishing law and order.


Welcoming the passage of the electoral law as a new step in the consolidation of democracy, he noted that discussions on the distribution of power and the sharing of assets had been slow.  Those issues were essential and all parties should compromise to arrive at a solution.  Belgium also welcomed UNAMI’s technical assistance in discussions about disputed internal boundaries and condemned the campaign of violence against Christians in Mosul.  Since the end of mandate for the Multinational Force was only a few weeks off, it was essential that UNAMI carry out its work in safe conditions.  In that regard, Belgium welcomed the promised contribution by the Government of Iraq to the construction of a United Nations compound.


MARTY NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said he was encouraged by the overall improvement in Iraq’s security situation, which had been marked by a drop in security incidents and continuing relative stability in the last few months.  That would give Iraq the chance to advance the political process and economic development.  It was critically important to maintain and strengthen those gains.  The recent transfer of security responsibilities from the Multinational Force to the Iraqi army in some governorates was a sign of the increased capacity of the Iraqi security forces.  However, Iraq continued to face serious security challenges.  Various threats and recent attacks warranted further efforts to strengthen peace and stability.  Military measures, meaningful dialogue and national reconciliation across political, ethnic and sectarian lines would be needed to address persistent security threats and build a strong foundation for durable peace.


Noting that electoral democracy was an important part of political stability, he said he was particularly encouraged by the September 2008 adoption of the provincial electoral law, which would serve as a legal basis for provincial elections in early 2009.  Sustained efforts by the working groups on the Iraqi border in respect of security, refugees and energy could further enhance cooperation.  Indonesia was concerned about the humanitarian situation of refugees and internally displaced persons.  International support was critical to meeting their urgent needs.  Indonesia was also concerned about continuing civilian casualties.  Respect for international humanitarian and human rights law was needed to protect civilians.  UNAMI’s intention to establish a presence in Kirkuk, Najaf, Ramadi and Mosul must be supported through sufficient resources.


NEVEN JURICA (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, noted with approval the improvements in the security situation, saying steps towards political reconciliation, particularly fair and successful elections, were now crucial.  It was to be hoped that the rapid completion of a status-of-forces agreement with the United States would avoid any security gap.


Iraq had vast economic potential that should be translated into economic stability and the provision of services for Iraqi citizens, he said, saluting the recent increase in political contacts with countries in the region.  Croatia pledged its full and continuous support for UNAMI’s efforts.


LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) hailed the encouraging progress made, in particular the general observance of the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Mahdi Army, the formal transfer of security responsibility to the Iraqi army in 13 governorates and the adoption of the provincial council elections law, among others.  However, even with the growth of the economy due to oil revenues, Iraq still faced many pressing demands, including food security, organized crime, constitutional review and continuing sectarian violence and suicide bombings, such as the recent incidents in Baghdad, Kirkuk and elsewhere.  Viet Nam was also concerned about the living conditions of women, children, refugees and internally displaced persons, who were most vulnerable to violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.


He went on to note that a country’s successful emergence from war into durable peace and sustainable development must be a nationally owned process built from unified political, security and socio-economic efforts.  All parties in Iraq should “renounce all potentially destabilizing acts, and jointly shoulder the national agenda of reconciliation and dialogue”, thus ensuring successful elections in January 2009 and the foundation for long-term peace and prosperity.  Towards those ends, Viet Nam called for more incisive participation by the international community, neighbouring countries and the United Nations.  Viet Nam praised the efforts of both the United Nations as coordinator of international contributions, and UNAMI’s crucial work, which had helped resolve the status of Kirkuk and other contested internal boundaries, extended electoral assistance and supported the constitutional review process.  Viet Nam also commended the participation of regional countries and the international community in Iraq’s reconstruction and development through the normalization of bilateral relations and the engagement of the International Compact with Iraq.


MICHAEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said the situation in Iraq, although fragile, was showing sings of improvement, and he welcomed progress in the political arena with the adoption of the electoral law and the updating of the voters list.  Significant efforts must still be made, however, in the area of human rights, including the protection of women and children.  Burkina Faso encouraged the Iraqi Government to establish an independent human rights commission.


The increasing diplomatic activities with neighbouring countries offered prospects for interregional cooperation, he said.  Keeping the violence in Mosul and the upcoming election in mind, the presence of the Multinational Force was necessary, as was a strengthening of UNAMI.


LA YIFAN ( China) said peace and recovery in Iraq was at a critical juncture.  Although progress in the security sector was welcome, the situation remained fragile.  China was particularly concerned about the large number of civilian casualties caused by military operations and violent attacks.  It was to be hoped that the Government would continue to lead all factions in agreeing on a common vision for the country.  UNAMI should continue its positive role in that regard.


He said the promotion of national reconciliation was essential and welcomed, in that regard, the adoption of the election law, which was an important milestone.  China also supported UNAMI in providing support for the electoral process.  For the consolidation of progress, reconstruction must move ahead, with the support of the international community.  UNAMI had achieved positive progress in all its activities under difficult circumstances.  Since safety and security had always been the Mission’s top priority, China was confident that the Government would honour its commitments to UNAMI in good faith.


RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said he was pleased to note some causes for optimism in Iraq, including reduced violence and progress in the electoral process.  It was essential to continue focusing attention on those areas and to keep humanitarian personnel on the ground.  In that light, the expanded presence of the United Nations on the ground was welcome.


ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) called on all parties to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, stressing that, since the Multinational Force operated in Iraq under authorization by the Council, it was crucial that it act in a manner consistent with the principles expressed by that body.  South Africa was concerned about military actions outside Iraq in which territorial integrity had been violated and civilians killed.  As for reconciliation, South Africa offered its extensive experience in that regard.


Council President JORGE BALLESTERO (Costa Rica), speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the progress made in the reconstruction and political fields, including in the matter of elections, which was important for strengthening Iraqi authority.  UNAMI should continue contributing to a transparent electoral process and all parties should counter any attempt to manipulate the election results.  Costa Rica also welcomed increased diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries, since Iraq’s stability depended largely on good relations with its neighbours.


While welcoming progress made in governance, he expressed concern about the deaths caused by political violence, terrorist attacks and military actions.  Since systematic human rights violations often went unnoticed, there was a need for effective monitoring mechanisms.  Costa Rica, therefore, urged the Government to combat the culture of impunity and adopt a bill to establish a human rights commission.  The delay in issuing the UNAMI report on human rights was also a matter of concern.


Mr. DE MISTURA, in concluding remarks, thanked Council members and the representative of Iraq for their encouraging words, noting that the Council had given UNAMI its confidence and trust.  Because of the challenges to be faced ahead, that trust and support would certainly be needed in the coming months.


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