SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPATION IN EXPANDING IRAQI SECURITY FORCES

19 May 2004
SC/8097

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPATION IN EXPANDING IRAQI SECURITY FORCES

19/05/2004
Press ReleaseSC/8097

Security Council                                           

4971st Meeting (AM)                                         

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPATION

IN EXPANDING IRAQI SECURITY FORCES

In Last Briefings to Council before Handover of Sovereignty to Iraq,

Representatives of United Kingdom, United States Also Address Prison Abuse Issue

At today’s critical juncture in Iraq’s history, now was the time for the international community to come together in support of Iraq and the Iraqi people, the United States’ representative told the Security Council today in his last regular briefing on the situation in Iraq before the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people on 30 June.

He said that 30 June would mark a vital step towards realizing the goal of an independent and stable Iraq.  Stressing that the fight against terrorism and for Iraqi security and stability was a shared one, he urged the international community to participate in the important task of expanding the Iraqi security forces.  That would facilitate the return of United Nations’ personnel to Iraq and enable the United Nations to continue its vital role in assisting the Iraqis in election preparations.

Turning to the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib, he said that his country stood with the rest of the world in shock and disgust.  President Bush had strongly condemned those acts, and had apologized and made clear that those responsible would be held accountable.  Steps were being taken to ensure that that was not repeated.  The majority of American servicemen and women served their country honourably, but democracy demanded that those that abused their authority should be brought to justice.

Also briefing the Council this morning was the representative of the United Kingdom, who said that the last three months had seen many challenges, including attempts to deny Iraqis the opportunity to rebuild their country.  Despite the difficult circumstances on the ground, he said, much had been, and was being, achieved.  Already, 11 ministries had been transferred to Iraqi control, and others would be transferred on the path to the restoration of full Iraqi sovereignty.

He said that gains had also been made in the areas of water volume and quality, increased oil production and export, transportation services, immunization for children, and the rehabilitation of schools.  The unexpectedly high oil price had provided Iraqi public finances with a boost of several billion dollars above the forecasts made when the 2004 budget had been set in October 2003.  As a result, the Iraqi Ministry of Finance had issued a revised budget.

Over the next few weeks, he said the Security Council would continue to work for a new resolution on Iraq, including the establishment of a sovereign Government there.  Regarding the reported abuses of Iraqi prisoners, he said that British personnel operated in strict accordance with the Geneva Conventions and international law.  Any form of abuse was completely unacceptable.  Presently, the Government had been running 33 investigations concerning the Royal Military Police.  The United Kingdom had apologized unreservedly to those who had suffered any abuse.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and was adjourned at 10:54 a.m.

Summary of Statements

JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that one year after the unanimous adoption of resolution 1483, today’s briefing would be the last United Kingdom/United States quarterly report on implementation of that text.  On 30 June, occupation by the Coalition Provisional Authority would end, and the Iraqi Governing Council would cease to exist.  An interim authority would assume responsibility, including the critical task of preparing for the assembly elections, to be held, if possible, by the end of 2004 or no later than January 2005.

Important steps had been taken, but there was a great deal of difficult work ahead, he said.  To those who would challenge and test the new interim government, it must be made clear that the international community’s commitment remained strong.  The targeting by criminal elements, including foreign terrorists, would not erode that resolve.

Turning to the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib, he said that everyone had seen the pictures depicting the shameful acts that shamed the honour and reputation of the United States.  The American justice system was moving swiftly to address those abuses.  So far, it had charged seven military personnel with criminal offences and had relieved two officers.  The first trial was taking place today.  All allegations of mistreatment were being thoroughly investigated.  Ultimately, a transparent and fair judicial process would determine guilt and those convicted would be punished.

He said that the United States took its obligations under the Geneva Conventions very seriously.  It was also committed to providing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to detainees in Iraq, and had been since the beginning of occupation.  As President Bush had said, free countries confronted such abuses openly.

In the month since his last report, the security situation had been particularly difficult, he said.  The multinational force had been on the offensive in Falluja and Ramadi, and had been involved in responding to the deplorable string of kidnappings.  It was also taking action to stop the lawlessness instigated by Muqtada Al-Sadr and his militia.  Those groups could not deprive Iraqis of their hopes for their future.

He said that attempts were being made to stabilize Iraq as 30 June approached.  More than 210,000 Iraqi citizens were serving in the Iraqi security force.  While that number had steadily increased, numbers alone did not tell the full story.  The response in April had been uneven, and the focus now was on improving the quality and leadership of those forces.  Important progress had been made towards building the national security institutions.  There was also an equal need for effective judiciary and corrective systems.

Faced with violent elements, continued efforts by the multinational force would be necessary after 30 June, he said.  He recognized the need for close partnership with the Iraqi people and forces, and he would build on that relationship.  Coordinative and consultative arrangements would be established.

Just after his report in February, the Governing Council approved the transitional administration law, which would serve as the legal basis for governance until a permanent constitution was ratified.  The law provided for the equal rights for all Iraqis, and it confirmed Iraq as a single State with a federal structure and an independent judiciary, among other things.  It also codified the dates for the national elections for the transitional national assembly.  The drafting of a permanent constitution was to be completed no later than 15 August 2005, with the transition to a constitutionally elected government by 31 December 2005.  The government would have the right to modify the provisional transitional administrative law if it so chose.

He noted that the Secretary-General had dispatched Lakhdar Brahimi to Iraq in early April.  In Mr. Brahimi’s report to the Security Council on 27 April, he had outlined the proposal for the interim government.  He also had noted the linkage between security and the political process and stated that security remained essential for the process to be completed.  Mr. Brahimi also had said that the political process itself would make a powerful contribution to security.  He then had returned to Iraq to continue wide-ranging consultations, with the objective of identifying the interim government.

A key milestone in the transition would be the establishment of a government chosen by democratic elections, he said.  The United Nations electoral assistance team had a productive working relationship with the Iraqis and the Coalition Provisional Authority, and was working with Iraqis on developing an independent election commission.  Things were in good shape in that regard, and a nationwide selection process was now under way in all 18 governorates.  Although that progress had been excellent, a very tight deadline was looming.  United Nations’ involvement in helping Iraqis prepare for the elections had been and would remain vital to Iraq’s transition.

Turning to the “oil-for-food” programme, he said that Iraqis continued to receive goods under the programme, and certain key projects, in such areas and power, health and education, were also continuing.  Arrangements had been made for the relevant Iraqi ministries to monitor incoming oil-for-food shipments, so that Iraqis would be able to manage the remaining projects under the programme.  Meanwhile, the Iraqi Board of Supreme Auditors had collected, centralized and safeguarded oil-for-food documents in preparation for its own investigation and others into alleged abuses of the programme.

On disarmament, he said that the Iraq survey group continued to search and eliminate weapons of mass destruction.  It remained premature to draw any final conclusion.  There was still much work to do, including following up continuing reports of hidden weapons caches.  Note had been taken of violations that the Saddam regime should have reported to the United Nations, but had not.  Illicit Iraqi procurement efforts had continued, including into 2003, and United Nations inspections had continued to be deceived.

Attempts were under way to identify programmes with applications for weapons of mass destruction, he said.  Iraq’s strategic intentions with respect to such weapons and undermining the inspection regime were also being examined.  In some weeks, the Security Council would consider and act on a resolution, for which he sought full support.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that the last three months had seen many challenges, including attempts to deny Iraqis the opportunity to rebuild their country.

Regarding the reported abuses of Iraqi prisoners, he said that British personnel operated in strict accordance with the Geneva Conventions and international law.  Any form of abuse was completely unacceptable.  The Government of the United Kingdom had been running 33 investigations concerning the Royal Military Police.  Recommendations regarding six of those cases were under consideration.  The United Kingdom had apologized unreservedly to those who had suffered any abuse.

Reporting on reconstruction efforts, he said that water volume and quality in Basra would exceed pre-war levels.  Nationwide long-term rehabilitation of essential water and sanitation infrastructure continued to work towards increasing access to clean water systems in both urban and rural areas.

With regard to oil, he said there were continued increases in production and export.  Forecasts suggested that this year’s revenue would be $18 billion, rising to $28 billion by the end of 2005.

On transportation, he said that the Iraqi Republic Railway now operated daily passenger services between Baghdad and Basra, and Mosul to Aleppo in Syria.

On health care, he said routine immunization of children had resumed, and 4,000 health workers were implementing a monthly immunization campaign.  The key focus had been on the rehabilitation of infrastructure, management of drug supply and the switch to a concentration on primary rather than secondary health care, with the accompanying focus on basic skills and training rather than advanced facilities and education.

On education, he said that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Coalition Provisional Authority and non-governmental organizations had rehabilitated more than 2,300 schools.

On economic development, he said that the unexpectedly high oil price had provided Iraqi public finances with a boost of several billion dollars above the forecasts made when the 2004 budget had been set in October 2003.  As a result, the Iraqi Ministry of Finance had issued a revised budget.

The Coalition Provisional Authority continued to be concerned about unemployment, he said.  It had established a public works programme in the major urban areas which would provide additional jobs over and above the 345,000 new ones that the Authority had estimated the reconstruction process to have created to date.

Turning to human rights and justice, he said the focus was on three independent, yet complementary platforms:  an effective Ministry of Human Rights; an independent National Human Rights Commission, including an ombudsman for human rights; and viable, active and sustainable independent human rights non-governmental organizations.  Efforts to provide training outside the country were ongoing.

He said that the Coalition Provisional Authority continued its work to promote the active participation of women from all walks of Iraqi life in the political process and in reconstruction.  A wide range of women’s groups had emerged over the last year.

Despite the difficult circumstances on the ground, he said, much had been, and was being, achieved.  Already, 11 ministries had been transferred to Iraqi control, and others would be transferred on the path to the restoration of full Iraqi sovereignty.

He said that over the next few weeks, the Security Council would continue to work for a new resolution on Iraq, including the establishment of a sovereign Government of Iraq.

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For information media. Not an official record.