BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL DESCRIBES ‘TIME OF HOPE’ FOR IRAQ, WITH MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OVER PAST THREE MONTHS

24 February 2004
SC/8006

BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL DESCRIBES ‘TIME OF HOPE’ FOR IRAQ, WITH MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OVER PAST THREE MONTHS

24/02/2004
Press ReleaseSC/8006

BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL DESCRIBES ‘TIME OF HOPE’ FOR IRAQ,

WITH MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OVER PAST THREE MONTHS

United States, United Kingdom Say, against Backdrop of Success,

Attacks Continue by Elements Bent on Sabotaging Reconstruction Efforts

Briefing the Security Council this morning on the work of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, John Negroponte of the United States noted that, while progress was not always as rapid as one wanted, it was a time of hope for Iraq, as it prepared for the 30 June transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi Government.

The three months since his last update had been witness to major accomplishments, Mr. Negroponte stated.  The drafting of the transitional administrative law was nearing completion; the Iraqis were working together to map their own way forward politically; Saddam Hussein was in custody and would undergo due process for crimes committed against the Iraqi people and humanity; and Iraqis were asserting their own vision for the country in numerous ways.

Against the backdrop of those successes, difficult challenges remained, including continued attacks by elements bent on sabotaging efforts for normalization and reconstruction.  Together, the Iraqi people would triumph in the effort to open a new chapter in their history, defined by the emergence of a democratic Iraq.  The international community must support the Iraqi people in confronting the challenges ahead.  Between now and the 30 June deadline for transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis, much remained to be done.  The United Nations had a vital role to play, both before and after 1 July.

He recalled that the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority had requested the United Nations to dispatch a team to assess the feasibility of direct elections within the 30 June time-frame.  The team concluded that free and fair elections could not be held by 30 June.  In light of that, the Iraqi people, the Provisional Authority and the United Nations would work to reach agreement on a transition mechanism that would have the broad-based support of the Iraqi people. 

Also briefing the Council, Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom noted that progress was continuing on the provision of basic services.  The Provisional Authority’s efforts to improve the provision of basic services were focused on water supply, electricity generation and oil production.  Efforts were also focused on improving the provision of health care, as well as primary and secondary education.  Iraqi financial institutions continued to grow and had begun a process of reintegration into the global community.  Among the top priorities was the creation of new jobs, as unemployment remained very high.

He noted that much had been achieved, saying that Iraqis now had a wide variety of freedoms they never had before.  The transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi Government on 30 June would indeed be a defining moment.  The task of rebuilding remained enormous.  Decades of oppression would not be undone overnight.  But efforts were making a real difference.  To succeed, the people and institutions of Iraq continued to need the sustained commitment of the international community.

Following the briefings, Council members discussed recent developments in Iraq, including the work done recently by the United Nations fact-finding team and plans for the restoration of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.  Welcoming the report’s recommendations, speakers expressed support for the transfer of sovereignty by 30 June, which would mark a defining moment in Iraq’s history, as well as direct national elections as soon as practicable thereafter.

The representative of the Russian Federation stated that the report of the fact-finding mission had confirmed that without the United Nations it would be difficult to achieve a lasting settlement.  He fully supported the Secretary-General’s approach that only the Iraqis themselves could define the ways to further carry on the political process.  While the United Nations could assist the Iraqis reach consent at the current juncture, it could hardly impose anything on them.  He noted the usefulness of holding an international conference on Iraq. 

Fully concurring with the findings of the fact-finding mission, Germany’s representative agreed that only consensus-building among all relevant Iraqi groups inside and outside the Governing Council offered a real chance to overcome today’s impasse in the political process in Iraq.  Only the United Nations could credibly facilitate a lasting consensus among the Iraqis.  He agreed with the Secretary-General that the precondition for the United Nations to succeed in Iraq was the clear and unambiguous support of a united Security Council and the establishment of a secure environment, which was the responsibility of the occupying Power.

France’s representative agreed that robust involvement by the United Nations was an essential asset for the success of the political transition in Iraq.  The remaining tasks were considerable and complex, including the definition of a transition mechanism and the establishment of a legal and institutional framework to engage the electoral process.  The 30 June date would be more a milestone than a conclusion.  It was essential to ensure that the milestone represented a genuine break from the past.  He added that the United Nations would need a clear, specific mandate that would guarantee its independence.  A new Council resolution could prove necessary to support the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.  That question would have to be considered at an appropriate time. 

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Algeria, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Philippines, Spain, Romania, Angola, Pakistan and China.

The meeting, which began at 10:12 a.m., adjourned at 12:15 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to hear briefings by the representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom on the situation in Iraq.

Statements

JOHN D. NEGROPONTE (United States) said the three months since his last update had been witness to major accomplishments.  The drafting of the transitional administrative law was nearing completion and would govern during the period until a fully-fledged government came into being.  The Iraqis were working together to map their own way forward politically.  The number of people involved in that effort was increasing everyday.  Saddam Hussein was in custody and would undergo due process for crimes committed against the Iraqi people and humanity.  Iraqis were asserting their own vision for Iraq in numerous ways, including by managing their natural resources and by taking the first steps towards representative democracy.

Against the backdrop of those successes, difficult challenges remained, he said.  Former regime loyalists, foreign fighters and hardened international terrorists continued to plague the Iraqi people.  Those forces had also directed efforts against any that tried to help the Iraqi people, including Coalition partners, non-governmental organizations(NGOs) and the United Nations itself.  The campaign of terror and destruction also targeted critical Iraqi infrastructure.  Together, the Iraqi people would triumph in the effort to open a new chapter in their history, defined by the emergence of a democratic Iraq.  Understanding what was at stake, many nations had stepped forward to assist in the rebirth of Iraq, including with diplomatic support, expert assistance and contributions to the multinational force.

He said the international community must support the Iraqi people to confront the challenges ahead.  The United Nations had a vital role to play, both before and after 1 July.  The efforts of the Secretary-General, Lakhdar Brahimi, and members of the United Nations fact-finding team had demonstrated the United Nations’ vital role.  All supported the transfer of sovereignty by 30 June, as well as direct national elections as soon as practicable thereafter.  Three weeks after the 15 November agreement, some 70 per cent of Iraqis supported the 30 June date.  Between now and 30 June, much remained to be done.  The United States welcomed the active engagement of the United Nations in helping the Iraqis define their own future.

On the security situation, United States forces had captured Saddam Hussein in a small underground bunker in a city near Tikrit on 13 December 2003.  He had extensive information on the network of former regime loyalists.  Since his arrest, the number of attacks against the multinational forces had decreased.  Attacks on Iraqi security forces and civilians had increased, however.  The determination of the Iraqi people to assume responsibility of their own security remained undeterred.  Following Saddam Hussein’s arrest, there had been a record spike in the number of Iraqis signing up to serve in the Civil Defence Corps.

The Iraqi Civil Defence Corps had more than doubled in size in the past three months, he continued.  As of 13 February, more than 25,000 Iraqi Civil Defence Corps personnel had been hired and trained.  The Facilities Protection Service, charged with protecting strategic infrastructure, had also more than doubled since November.  As of 15 February, there were more than 70,000 guards on duty.  The number of Iraq armed forces personnel had also more than doubled; nearly 2,000 were now in operation, and some 1,700 were in training.  The number of border police, and custom inspectors had also more than doubled.

The Iraqi police force had continued to grow to 75,000 personnel, or 10,000 more than in November, he added.  On 29 January, the first 466 of 3,500 officers trained in Jordan had graduated from the multinational programme for police recruits.  Germany had agreed to train Iraqi police.

The Iraqis themselves were at the forefront of the effort to stabilize the country, he said.  Troops participating in the multinational force were supporting the Iraqi people.  Japan had made a historic decision to deploy defence personnel.  The Republic of Korea, also a force contributor, had committed to deploy additional soldiers in the coming weeks.  Other countries had taken political decisions that would make their offer of forces a reality on the ground.  New and renewed contributions, in accordance with resolutions 1483 and 1511, represented the international community’s commitment to improving Iraq’s future.  He urged the international community to provide additional manpower and resources to further assist the efforts of the multinational force.

On the issue of governance, a solid local governance system was the foundation on which a democratic national government could be built, he said.  With the United States’ support, Iraqis had held numerous town meetings to discuss the transition to sovereignty.  The broad framework of the political process would be underpinned by the work under way in the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a transitional administrative law, until a permanent constitution was ratified.  That document would define the basic tenets for Iraq’s transitional government and fundamental protections for civil, political and religious liberties.

He said the Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority had requested that the United Nations dispatch a United Nations team to assess the feasibility of direct elections within the 30 June time-frame.  The request was followed by productive discussions in New York on 19 January.  The Secretary-General had dispatched a fact-finding mission.  The Coalition Provisional Authority had provided security and other support to ensure a successful visit.  The United Nations team had returned, and he welcomed the report, which provided recommendations on what was required to conduct elections.  It had concluded that free and fair elections could not be held by 30 June, the date by which all agreed that the transfer of sovereignty should take place.  The Iraqi people, the Iraqi Governing Council, the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the United Nations would work to reach agreement on a transition mechanism that would have the broad-based support of the Iraqi people.

On the “oil-for-food” programme, he said that, in accordance with resolution 1483, the programme had terminated on 21 November.  That transition had gone smoothly.  The World Food Programme (WFP) was assisting the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Ministry of Trade with procurement and logistical assistance to keep the public distribution system supplied.  Shipments of food were handled by the newly established coordination centre, which was staffed by Iraqi and Coalition officials.  The Ministry of Trade would take complete control of procurement on 1 April and would assume full responsibility for all aspects of the programme on 1 July.

On the issue disarmament, the Iraq Survey Group continued its search for weapons of mass destruction, he said.  In January, Charles Duelfer, the former Deputy Executive Chairman of United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) had assumed leadership of the Survey Group, replacing David Kay.  Mr. Kay had reported that the Group had been unable to confirm pre-war intelligence assessments about Iraq weapons stockpiles.  Further work remained until the question could be fully addressed.  The Group had discovered clear evidence that Saddam’s regime had hidden ongoing weapons of mass destruction activities from the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and concluded that Iraq was in violation of previous Council resolutions.  The Saddam Hussein regime was intent on deceiving the international community.  The Group maintained a sizeable number of specialists and some Iraqis were cooperating in the efforts.  Fear of reprisals might be inhibiting cooperation by others.  The Group would continue its important work.

He concluded by noting that progress was not always as rapid as one would hope.  Despite that sober assessment, it was a time of hope for Iraq.  In the last three months, much had been accomplished and steady progress was visible.  Iraqi’s neighbours had a unique opportunity to play a constructive role in the transition.

Also briefing the Council, EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that progress was continuing on the provision of basic services.  The Coalition Provisional Authority’s efforts to improve the provision of basic services were focused on water supply, electricity generation and oil production.  A massive effort was under way to revive the country and its institutions.  The rehabilitation of water and sanitation infrastructure throughout Iraq continued.  Power generation was continually improving.  Also, the increase in quantities of oil produced and exported from Iraq had continued over recent months, rising from 2.3 million barrels per day.  The Coalition Provisional Authority continued to rehabilitate critical road infrastructures.  Three key bridges had been repaired and reopened to traffic.

Turning to health care, he said the Authority was supporting a reformed Ministry of Health capable of providing essential health care throughout the country.  Salaries in health care had increased, with the salaries of doctors increasing from $3 to $350 a month.  On education, the Coalition Provisional Authority was also focused on improving enrolment, as well as improving primary and secondary education.  Teacher training continued in order to improve primary and secondly education.

On economic issues, he said the priority was to establish a sound economic framework.  Iraqi financial institutions continued to grow and had begun a process of reintegration into the global community.  On 11 February, the World Trade Organization had welcomed and accepted Iraq’s request to become an observer.  The balance for the Development Fund for Iraq as of 12 February was $8.8 billion.  The Iraqi budget had benefited from an additional $1.8 billion between October 2003 and January 2004 from higher oil revenues than expected. 

A top priority for the Provisional Authority, he stressed, was to create new jobs, as unemployment remained very high.  It was accelerating work on projects to create further employment opportunities.  The national employment programme had so far created 110,000 jobs.  The Ministry of Finance planned to invest $1.25 million in 2004 to create an additional 125,000 jobs. In coordination with the Provisional Authority, the Ministry of Justice had developed strategies to ensure the establishment or reconstruction of basic Iraqi criminal justice facilities.  A new Ministry of Human Rights would also play an important role in shaping human rights protection throughout the country.  The Judicial Review Committee had completed a review of every judge in the country to ensure that the justice system was now run by people of integrity.  The overall dismissal rate was 25 per cent.

On the role of women, the Provisional Authority continued to actively promote their role in all phases of reconstruction.  He highlighted the fact that Iraqi women would travel to New York to take part in the session of the Commission on the Status of Women to begin next week.  He noted that much had been achieved.  Iraqis now had a wide variety of freedoms they never had before.  With the reconstruction came an opportunity for a better future.  The transfer of sovereignty to an Iragi Government on 30 June would indeed be a defining moment.  The task of rebuilding remained enormous.  Decades of oppression would not be undone overnight.  But efforts were making a real difference.

To succeed, he said, the people and institutions of Iraq continued to need the sustained commitment of the international community.  He welcomed the support of many countries and the contributions of the United Nations.  He also welcomed the offer of the United Nations to assist with consensus building and subsequent elections.  He wanted to see a strong and growing United Nations role.  The United Nations and its Members could and should continue to help Iraqis on their journey towards a democratic country. 

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the briefings helped the Council to better understand what was happening in Iraq and assess the magnitude of the challenges facing the Iraqi people.  As the Council met for the first time in a public meeting since the end of the oil-for-food programme, he wanted to know more about the daily lives of the Iraqi people, including a more detailed description of its foreign trade.  The International Advisory and Monitoring Board had an important role to play, but it did not appear to be fully playing that role.  He asked the Secretariat to provide information on the reasons why that body was not operating normally.

The socio economic situation in Iraq was very grim, he said.  Many Iraqis were living in a precarious situation of complete poverty.  While progress had been made in certain fields, in other fields progress was taking longer.  The disturbing socio-economic situation was compounded by a more worrying phenomenon, that of violence.  Every day fierce attacks occurred in which the civilian population was the primary victim.  The occupying Power had to better ensure the security of the Iraqi population.  He appealed for the end of the occupation and the recovery of the Iraqi people to sovereignty.  All parties concerned must respect the 30 June date.  The Coalition Provisional Authority must work so that the handover could take place on that date. 

The dispatch of the United Nations fact-finding mission showed that the United Nations’ role in the country was vital, he said.  In the framework of the mandate to be defined by the Council in due course, the United Nations should be able, in the current phase, to provide its assistance, so that understanding could be reached on the composition and structure of the transition body.  In that way, the United Nations would have contributed to establishing a credible government body with which all Iraqis could identify.  The date of the transfer must be maintained for 30 June.  The United Nations, with its vast electoral experience, should make its expertise available, so that direct elections could take place at the end of this year or the beginning of next.  The electoral timetable must be strictly observed.  The international community must support the Secretary-General’s recent report.

JOEL W. ADECHI (Benin) welcomed the briefing provided today, as well as the practical steps taken by the Secretary-General, particularly the sending of a fact-finding mission to Iraq.  The holding of elections after conflict often posed a problem, especially when there were no political parties to lead the political process.  A consensus had not yet been created.  For Iraq, a structure needed to be created that would lead to normalizing the situation.  The approach suggested by the Secretary-General was rational and would help to forge consensus.  It was also a key to meeting the 30 June deadline.

A United Nations mission must be created to support that process and to help elaborate a fundamental law.  The mechanism for the transition could only come from the Iraqi people themselves.  A number of principles must be complied with, in that regard.  A process for achieving consensus must be identified and it needed to be flexible, with a view to managing the transition period.  The promotion of human rights was also key to ensuring a process of normalization.  The discussion started among the United Nations, Iraqi society and the Coalition Provisional Authority did provide hope.  The security situation could, however, undermine the normalization and reconstruction process.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said achieving a rapid and lasting settlement and restoring Iraqi sovereignty was the main aim of all concerned and was the focus, first and foremost, of the Iraqis themselves.  That goal had also been the focus of the latest steps by the United Nations.  He welcomed the recent fact-finding mission to Iraq.  Its report had confirmed that without the United Nations it was difficult to achieve a lasting settlement.  As a result of involving the United Nations, the number of participants in the political process within Iraq had broadened.  The Russian Federation was studying the report, and its initial views were positive.  The report contained important conclusions regarding the breakdown of political forces in Iraq and the existing threats in the country.

The analyses provided by the report must be taken in account as the best avenue to achieve the establishment of a lasting post-war settlement, he said.  He fully supported the Secretary-General’s approach that only the Iraqis themselves could define the ways to further carry on the political process.  He would be prepared to consider any communications from the Iraqis themselves to the Council.  The urgency of the issues was noted in the report.  While the United Nations could assist the Iraqis reach consent at the current juncture, it could hardly impose anything on them. 

Mindful of the growing violence in Iraq, he would fully rely on the Secretary-General on the issue of when, and in what form, the United Nations would be involved in various processes.  As various options were considered, it would be useful to keep in mind the idea of holding an international conference on Iraq that would involve Iraq’s neighbours.   Resolution 1483 must be fully implemented.  The issue of the mandates of UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remained on the Council’s agenda. 

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that a new diplomatic reality had been reflected in the Secretary-General’s report, which showed that the United Nations had to reset its presence in the country.  There was firm consensus on the transfer of sovereignty by 30 June.  He agreed that the process leading to the holding of elections had to be defined by the Iraqis themselves, and the United Nations should contribute to such an effort. That would lead to putting the issue of the role of the United Nations once again on the agenda.  There were other areas that needed updating, such as preparations for the adoption of a fundamental law, more information on the activities of the International Advisory and Monitoring Board. 

CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) said that he valued the agreement reached between the Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority on 15 November.  That agreement contained a timetable establishing a process to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people.  That objective had been part of the will of the Council, as reflected in numerous Council resolutions.  The future handover of sovereignty had the consent of Iraqi people and the agreement of the Coalition Provisional Authority .  That handover contained huge challenges for the major parties involved.

It was important to begin a political process leading to the election of a democratic government, that had the support of all forces in the country, he said.  To ensure legitimacy, an electoral law was needed as was an appeals mechanism and appropriate levels of security.  At least eight months of preparations would be needed to conduct an electoral process, according to the report.  He agreed that elections were not feasible before the date for transferring sovereignty.  That situation contained major challenges, such as the establishment of mechanisms to regulate the transfer and the body to govern the country afterwards.

The United Nations, he said, could contribute to the establishment of consensus, making it possible to establish a transitional government, as well as provide technical assistance for future elections.  He was concerned about the security situation in Iraq, since it determined freedom of movement and the capability of the United Nations to operate.  He requested additional information on the fundamental law, which would soon be promulgated. 

GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said that he fully concurred with the findings of the fact-finding mission and with its recommendations.  He also shared the view that only consensus building among all relevant Iraqi groups inside and outside the Governing Council offered a real chance to overcome today’s impasse in the political process in Iraq.  Only the United Nations could credibly facilitate a lasting consensus among the Iraqis. 

He also subscribed to the “ceterum censeo” of the Secretary-General that the precondition for the United Nations to succeed in Iraq was the clear and unambiguous support of a united Security Council and the establishment of a secure environment.  Of course, establishing a secure environment would remain the responsibility of the occupying Power, in cooperation with the evolving Iraqi security structures. 

In light of the report of the fact-finding mission, he wanted to know if the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council were still pursuing the elaboration of a fundamental law and the conclusion of bilateral security arrangements in accordance with the November agreement.  If so, what deadlines were to be applied in that context?  Were Iraqi groups outside the Governing Council included in that negotiation process?  Would they seek the assistance of the United Nations as a facilitator for those issues?

Also, did the Coalition Provisional Authority already have clear ideas on the format and time-frame for a more focused dialogue on the mechanism to which authority and sovereignty would be transferred on 30 June 2004?  Which groups outside the Governing Council did they intend to address, and how?  He added that the political situation in Iraq was at a critical juncture.  A lot of challenges still lay ahead, and time was short.  However, if all parties involved, including the Security Council, got it right, now, there was still hope that, with the crucial help of the United Nations in forging consensus among all Iraqis, it was possible to contribute to the development of a stabilized and democratic Iraq. 

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said the progress report provided by the Secretary-General was encouraging.  A consensus was emerging on two points:  namely the confirmation of the agreement by all Iraqis on the need to meet the

30 June deadline; and the agreement that elections were the best way to establish permanent representative and legitimate institutions.  There was broad agreement on the need to carefully prepare for the election.  The electoral issue, which had threatened to derail the entire political process, seemed to be creating common ground among Iraqis.  Initial results confirmed that robust involvement by the United Nations was an essential asset for the success of the political transition in Iraq.  The progress made also demonstrated the success of a dialogue and consensus-building mechanism, which was the mark of the United Nations, he added. 

The remaining tasks were considerable and complex, he said.  Essential issues included the definition of a transition mechanism and the establishment of a legal and institutional framework to engage the electoral process.  Considerable uncertainty regarding the 15 November agreement also remained and the security issue was also important.  The 30 June deadline was a milestone in the transition, as it would mark the return of Iraqi sovereignty.  The challenges facing Iraq would remain vast.  Reconstruction would call for sustained efforts.  The elections would have to be organized, and a permanent constitution drafted.  The 30 June date would be more a milestone than a conclusion.  It was essential to ensure that the milestone represented a genuine break from the past.

Transitional institutions needed to be accepted by the greatest number, he said.  They must be as inclusive as possible and allow for the expression of opinion.  The deadline should not codify the end of the former regime, but lead to the genuine handover of authority to the Iraqis so that they could administer their country.  The transfer as provided for in resolution 1511 must be continued.  Iraq’s acceptance of new institutions would be even greater if the authority of the institutions was genuine.

The United Nations would be called upon to be involved with the Iraqis, he said.  The United Nations was now already playing the role of a facilitator.  If security conditions allowed, the United Nations could make its expertise available to the Iraqis.  The United Nations would need a clear, specific mandate that would guarantee its independence.  One could wonder whether existing resolutions provided an appropriate framework for United Nations’ actions.  A new Council resolution could prove necessary to support the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.  That question would have to be considered at an appropriate time. 

LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines) noted with gratification that there was consensus that the United Nations should have a vital role in Iraq.  It was critical that the political process be fully supported by the people of Iraq.  Iraqi ownership must be a fundamental principle in that exercise.  The legitimacy of the exercise would be critical to ensuring that democracy took root in the country.  The United Nations had become a vital player in the country and would offer the best hope of such legitimacy.  To pave the way for the Organization to play a central role in Iraq, it was necessary to consider the appointment of a special representative as soon as possible.  The Secretary-General could also consider the early return of United Nations staff to Iraq. 

The core issue of the political process was how to hand over sovereignty and to whom on 30 June, he noted.  The United Nations would be called on to nurse the new government to strength.  A new governing structure must be able to provide security and basic services to the people.  Two important issues must be addressed, security and the provision of basic services.  Even after the handover, Coalition Provisional Authority security forces would remain until Iraqi security forces could take over.  He asked about the command structure for such a force.  The reconstruction of Iraq required the cooperation of the international community, particularly those of influential countries that had initially opposed the war.  The leading role of the United Nations in that effort would be critical for those who could provide support.  It was important to maintain a united Iraq and to give the Iraqi people a sense of where they were going and when.  With a clearly defined mandate, the United Nations could play an important and constructive role towards that end. 

INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said it was sometimes useful to review the Council’s work, to see what its members’ views had been.  In different meetings, particularly on 21 November, a number of members had referred to the need to rebuild consensus both in Iraq and at the regional and international levels.  Elements for recovering that consensus included the need for the political process to enjoy broad support from Iraqi society.  Just a few months ago, it would not have been possible for the Iraqis to openly impose their opinions.  Freedom of expression was now possible, and Iraqis could express their sovereignty by choosing their own political model.  It was necessary for Iraq to recover full normalcy in its relationship with its neighbours.  At the United Nations, he welcomed the establishment of the core group and of the Group of Friends, as they were appropriate channels for the participation of neighbouring countries.  Iraq must also participate in those meetings. 

He shared the view that the United Nations must play a vital role.  The report recognized that credible elections could not be held before 30 June.  He stressed the need to maintain the 30 June deadline.  The Iraqis must own their own process.  An Iraqi electoral commission must be established to immediately start preparing the process.  The provisional government to be established must exercise Iraqi sovereignty completely.  He supported the process to establish a provisional government by 30 June and he hoped the Iraqi administration would be completely able to confront the challenges ahead. 

MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania) said that recent attacks showed that destructive elements were still at work in the country.  Those actions should not discourage the dynamic of internal dialogue.  Security should be addressed as a priority issue.  On the political transition, the 15 November agreement set out guidelines for the restoration of sovereignty to the Iraqis.  Beyond some unresolved questions, the fact-finding mission indicated unanimity to keep the 30 June deadline and the determination to continue dialogue and consensus-building.  The unanimity of the international community, especially the Security Council, was important for helping Iraqis reach fundamental agreements and ensuring the legitimacy of the political process.  The United Nations should resume its role in Iraq as soon as possible. 

Regarding basic services and economic reconstruction, he was pleased to hear that progress had been made in a number of areas.  He welcomed overall efforts to establish a sound economic framework and accelerate the reintegration of the country’s institutions on the international circuit.  The granting of World Trade Organization (WTO) observer status was a positive step in that regard.  Focusing on the restoration of law and order was crucial for building a just society.  He said his country remained committed to upholding stability and security in Iraq, and noted that Romania’s Prime Minister was currently visiting Iraq.  He offered the lessons learned during his country’s own transition period for the transition process in Iraq.

ISMAEL ABRAAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) took note of the progress made so far in building institutional, physical and political infrastructure.  In 2003, once again, Iraq had become the most worrisome issue on the Council’s agenda.  In 2004, the Iraqi people, the occupying Powers and the international community found itself at a dramatic crossroads, with a few narrow options for the future.  The security situation remained of enormous concern, as a dangerous climate prevailed in the country.  Once again, a collective effort by the international community was needed to face such a dangerous situation.  The restoration of sovereignty to Iraq on 30 June must take place in a dramatically improved security situation, in order to mark a real departure from the past.  Without steady improvement in security, it would be very difficult to hold just, free and fair elections.

He was concerned by the growing fragmentation and inter-communal clashes taking place.  In its place, it was necessary to see the building of truly national consensus, trust and cooperation.  Iraq was at a dangerous crossroad in its history.  The Security Council also found itself at a crossroad with few options.  The Secretary-General’s report was a wake-up call and a reminder of the narrow road that Iraq and the international community had to run towards its future.  The ownership of the process by Iraqis must be a reality.  It was important to keep a consensus within the Council to best translate its support for the Iraqi people and find a solution to the difficult situation currently faced. 

MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said he was gratified to know that the fact-finding mission had been able to meet with a broad range of actors.  He had noted the Secretary-General’s emphasis on the ownership of various processes by the Iraqis themselves.  He hoped that, with United Nations help, a consensus would emerge on the best way forward for restoring Iraq’s sovereignty.  He agreed that the United Nations had a central role to play in Iraq and he shared the Secretary-General’s view that, to retain credibility, the United Nations must keep its clear and separate identity as an impartial world body. 

The security situation continued to neutralize the normalization process, he said.  It was important to ask how the question of security would be addressed in the process of political transition.  That challenge must be addressed.  He hoped that, in the days ahead, an appropriate structure would be developed for the United Nations involvement in Iraq.  Welcoming the recent meeting of Iraq’s neighbours, he stressed that the role of Arab and other Islamic countries would be crucial for building peace in Iraq.

Pakistan was ready to provide all possible assistance to the United Nations and the Iraqi people, he said.  Noting that the transitional law was nearing completion, he hoped that the views of the Iraqis would be kept in mind during the process.  The law must not undermine the cultural, historic and religious makeup of Iraq and must be owned and supported by all Iraqi groups.  He also condemned the pattern of attacks on unarmed civilians.

Council President WANG GUANGYA (China), speaking in his national capacity, thanked both the United States and the United Kingdom for their briefings.  He thanked the United Nations team for going to Iraq and carrying out the fact-finding mission, as well as for their detailed report.  He hoped Iraq’s sovereignty could be smoothly restored.  The Iraqi situation had entered a crucial stage, with the political process facing several challenges.  He supported the United Nations in continuing to play an important role in the country.  Taking note of the report’s recommendations, he hoped that general consensus could be forged as soon as possible on such issues as electoral arrangements and the mechanism for transferring sovereignty. 

Responding to questions posed by Council members, Mr. JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that the answers to a number of the questions asked could be found in the annex he had circulated.  On the International Advisory and Monetary Board, he said an agreement was reached with the Coalition Provisional Authority on future work, now leading to early progress.  Information regarding the Development Fund for Iraq was covered in the circulated annex and the Coalition Provisional Authority Web site. 

On security agreements, he said that, as things stood now, Council resolution 1511 gave complete clarity.  The Transitional Administrative Law and its negotiations was the responsibility of the Iraqi Governing Council.  He expected that an outcome would be produced in the near future.  As to whether the United Nations could facilitate that, he said that to the extent that it was able, he would welcome that.

Turning to ideas for the transitional government, he said that to speculate on the desirable outcome was unwise, given that it was a question of whether the Iraqis themselves were content with what emerged.  As to the criteria for the transitional government, whatever appeared in the final process should show that things had changed on 30 June.  The outcome hoped for was one that was more representative of the different groups in Iraq.  He drew encouragement from the wish of the Council to be united in its response to the situation in Iraq, the agreement for maintaining the transfer deadline and the preparations for elections.  Anything the United Nations or anyone else could do for that was all the better.  There was a lot of encouragement the Iraqi people could draw from today’s discussion.

Mr. NEGROPONTE (United States) noted that today’s discussion had been productive.  He appreciated the tone and substance of comments made around the table.  Responding to the various issues raised, he noted that the Iraqis were hard at work on the Transitional Administrative Law.  There was a deadline for its promulgation.  A drafting committee within the Governing Council was working on it and a wide range of Iraqis was being consulted on the process of developing the law.  The Coalition Provisional Authority had played an ongoing consultative role in that regard.  The Iraqis had made significant progress towards the completion of the Law and continued to work toward the achievement of the 28 February deadline. 

On the question of the United Nations involvement in that process, he noted that the issue of the Transitional Administrative Law had not been covered in

Mr. Brahimi’s report or in the objectives of the fact-finding mission.  It was not that such a role would not be welcome.  Given time constraints, however, he did not envisage a United Nations role in the drafting process at the current time. 

Regarding next steps, he agreed with the representative of the United Kingdom that it would be imprudent to speculate at the current point on the various options.  There was some discussion of the matter in the Secretary-General’s report.  The Iraqis must have as much association with the outcome as possible.  The Secretary-General’s report noted that the resolution of the timing of the election provided opportunity and space for Iraqis and the Coalition Provisional Authority to engage in more focused dialogue on the issue of a transitional mechanism.

Concerning the question of security and the matter of a bilateral security agreement, he said it was one of a number of topics currently under discussion in Baghdad with the Governing Council.  Those discussions would continue.  As in the past, he would seek an opportunity to further respond to the questions raised by members today.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.