17 January 2005 With less than two weeks left before Iraq’s elections, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today the United Nations had fulfilled its role as technical adviser, and he appealed to the Government to make the vote as inclusive as possible despite the “far from ideal” situation of violence prevailing in the country.
“Let me say that as far as we are concerned, all the technical preparations are ready,” Mr. Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York on his return from visiting the tsunami-devastated countries of southeast Asia.
“We have done everything that we need to do to help the elections go forward. Obviously the situation is far from ideal,” he added, calling the electoral assistance on the ground from the UN team and other international bodies “a really heroic job.”
The Secretary-General said he spoke yesterday to Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who indicated that he was trying to reach out and bring in as many people outside the process as possible.
“Even at this late stage I would urge them to try and bring in as many people as possible and understand that measures are being taken to assure security for the elections,” Mr. Annan added. “Obviously this is not going to be 100 per cent proof, but we will see what these efforts will bring in the next week to ten days.”
In another development, Mr. Annan’s Special Representative Ashraf Qazi said today the UN, through its human rights office, would support Iraqi efforts to establish a National Centre of Missing and Disappeared Persons to track down the fate of hundreds of thousands of people who disappeared under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“Such is the situation of missing persons and mass graves in Iraq, that the extent of the problem is still unknown,” he told a meeting in Amman, the capital of neighbouring Jordan, that brought together some 100 participants including international experts from various sectors, Iraqi ministers and officials and delegates from interested countries.
“The proliferation of mass graves is an open sore which affects and interests not only Iraqis but the international community at large.”
The meeting adopted a resolution calling on the Iraqi Government to set up such a centre, on Iraqi society, institutions and individuals to cooperate fully and on the international community to assist with expertise and resources.
Mr. Qazi said Iraq’s recent history needed to be examined, not just to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, but also to ensure that similar events do not take place again. “We need to focus on the past in order to solve outstanding cases, to acknowledge the pain of family of the disappeared, of survivors,” he said.
“But we also need to learn these hard truths order to build a brighter future. We should never forget the legacy of the past without unnecessary focus on revenge or sheer retribution. Violence always begets more violence and societal decay.”
Video of press remarks [11mins]