17 September 2004 The United Nations remains committed to assist the Iraqi people hold free, fair and credible elections by the end of next January and hopes that the fragile security situation there can improve, spokesman Fred Eckhard said today.
Responding to questions prompted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks in an interview with the BBC earlier this week, Mr. Eckhard said the world body would continue to do what it can to help achieve the electoral timetable.
Mr. Annan told the BBC that if there is no improvement in security, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to hold credible polls by the end of January, and Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General stands by the remark.
"The Secretary-General was flagging a concern that has been raised before. We do remain hopeful that as the current political process becomes more inclusive it will have a positive effect on the security situation," he said.
Mr. Eckhard said the UN presence in Iraq is currently too limited to accurately assess the level of security around the country, but he noted from media reports that the situation did not appear to be good. "It's our hope that the security situation will improve," he said.
Mr. Annan's Special Representative Ashraf Qazi is in place in Baghdad, as well as some humanitarian, electoral, political and security staff.