CONVENING OF TRANSITIONAL ASSEMBLY, ELECTION OF PRESIDENT, VICE-PRESIDENTS ARE EVIDENCE OF IRAQ’S PROGRESS TOWARDS DEMOCRATIC FUTURE, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

11 April 2005
SC/8355

CONVENING OF TRANSITIONAL ASSEMBLY, ELECTION OF PRESIDENT, VICE-PRESIDENTS ARE EVIDENCE OF IRAQ’S PROGRESS TOWARDS DEMOCRATIC FUTURE, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

11/04/2005
Press ReleaseSC/8355

Security Council

5161st Meeting (PM)

Convening of transitional assembly, election of president, vice-presidents are

 

evidence of iraq’s progress towards democratic future, Security Council told

Following Iraq’s historic elections, the convening of its Transitional National Assembly and the election of a new President and two Vice-Presidents were further testimony to the country’s progress towards a democratic future, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, told the Security Council today.

Delivering his first briefing since the 30 January elections, he said that the election of the Presidency Council, in particular, was a clear expression of the new leadership’s commitment to work towards national unity through peaceful democratic means.  The quicker the formation of the Transition Government, the sooner Iraq would move forward to the next phase of its political transition.

Noting that the organization of three simultaneous elections on 30 January had been a formidable feat, matched by a formidable statement of support from voters throughout Iraq, he said that though too many people had not participated, for whatever reason, all the major parties had nevertheless engaged in intensive negotiations for the formation of the Government and participation in the constitution-making process.  It was important that no community should feel alienated from the political process.

The road ahead presented great opportunities, as well as serious challenges, he said, the main challenge being to consolidate national unity through dialogue and reconciliation while preserving Iraq’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity.  Regardless of religious and sectarian background, it was in the interest of every Iraqi to contribute to the forging of a broad political consensus on the way forward.  No constituency should fear becoming the new victims in a new Iraq.  Those parties that had benefited most from the elections had already demonstrated foresight and wisdom in articulating a policy of outreach and inclusion, in counselling restraint in the face of provocative acts of violence, and in negotiating mutually agreeable understandings for the formation of a Transition Government.

Political, economic and security challenges would continue to confront Iraq, he warned, but if they were approached on the basis of developing a national consensus, the Transitional Assembly should succeed in creating a new and stronger political framework, in which all Iraqis could contribute their skills and energies to building and defending a democratic, pluralistic and prosperous country.  A credible political process offered the best prospect for improving the security environment, which remained difficult in certain parts of the country.  Although there had been an apparent reduction in the number of violent incidents since the elections, the insurgency’s tactics and lethality continued to evolve and remained a cause of concern.  The better and the faster Iraqi security forces could be trained, the sooner they would be able to assume their responsibilities and take charge of Iraq’s security.

Pointing out that the human rights situation continued to warrant close attention, he said that, in some areas, the population remained deprived of the protection to which they were entitled under international humanitarian law.  Continuing reports of detentions and the absence of adequate arrangements for due process must also be addressed.  In those areas where security was relatively stable, the concerned authorities should be able to give greater attention to the protection of human rights.

The international community could critically support Iraq’s transition by stepping up reconstruction and development assistance both through the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq and bilaterally, he said.  The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) was taking measures to improve its delivery capacity, while keeping the evolving security situation in mind.  The Mission was also prepared to play an enhanced coordinating role between donor countries and organizations, on the one hand, and designated Iraqi authorities, on the other.  That would help the effectiveness of international assistance in a range of fields.

The Council also heard from the representative of the United States, who briefed on the efforts and progress of the Multinational Force in fulfilling its mandate, and from the representative of Iraq.

Today’s meeting began at 3:12 p.m. and ended at 3:52 p.m.

Background

Meeting to consider the situation between Iraq and Kuwait, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 30 of resolution 1546 (2004), dated 7 March 2005, and providing an update of United Nations activities in Iraq since the last report (S/2004/959).

Regarding the political process in Iraq, the report (document S/2005/141) says the main focus of attention was the direct democratic elections held on 30 January under the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq.  More than 8.5 million Iraqis, out of a voter population exceeding 14 million, turned out to vote despite concerns about the security environment, attempts at disruption and ongoing violence.  While turnout in most areas was high, it was significantly low in others and among some groups, especially Sunni Arabs.  The elections met recognized standards in terms of organization, regulations and procedures, and relatively few serious irregularities were reported to the Electoral Commission.

According to the report, since the elections, a number of political leaders from successful electoral lists have signalled their readiness to invite prominent and representative leaders from Sunni Arab communities to participate in the Transitional Government and in the constitution-making process, so as to ensure balanced representation in both.  Similarly, a number of Sunni Arab and Arab nationalist political entities that did not take part in the elections, or had urged a boycott or postponement, have declared that their points of view must be included in the next steps of the transition and that they have the right to participate fully in the drafting of a permanent constitution.

Efforts are under way to prepare for the convening of the Transitional National Assembly, which will comprise 275 members, the report says.  It is generally assumed that it will be convened before the parties have reached agreement on the composition of the Government.  There is a similar process with respect to key government posts, including the presidency (the President and the two Vice-President), as well as the Prime Minister and the members of the Council of Ministers.

The report points out that progress in the political process remains heavily influenced by the security situation, which continues to pose a serious challenge.  The large number of casualties among Iraqi police and security forces and inadequate judicial protection remain serious impediments to law enforcement.  In Fallujah, extensive damage to the civilian infrastructure, as well as restrictions imposed by the Order for Safeguarding National Security, hampered the return of its displaced population.  At the end of February, the multinational force and the Iraqi security forces mounted a counter-insurgency campaign in Anbar province, including Ramadi.  The security situation remains fragile, as demonstrated by the resumption of daily attacks against Iraqis and foreigners immediately after the elections, including a terrorist attack in Hillah on 28 February, in which 120 civilians, police and National Guard volunteers were killed and more than 140 injured.

On human rights activities, the report says that throughout the reporting period, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) received consistent reports from individuals and community leaders, government officials and national and international non-governmental organizations of excessive use of force against persons and property, as well as mass arrests by both the multinational force and Iraqi security forces.  Reports of ill-treatment of detainees and inadequacies in judicial procedures have continued.  The Minister of Human Rights and the Minister of Justice have expressed their readiness to address the problem, and the multinational force investigated and convicted those found guilty of abusing detainees in a number of cases.

The UNAMI Human Rights Office continues to work with Iraqi institutions and civil society to address the legacy of both past and present challenges with a view to fostering national reconciliation, the report states.  The UNAMI Human Rights Office has engaged with the Ministry of Justice to further plan the implementation of projects addressing the reform of the Ministry, as well as the legal, judiciary and penitentiary systems.  Regarding Iraqi civil society organizations, the Human Rights Office, together with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS), is implementing a country-wide programme, including conferences, seminars, training, research and publications.

Every effort should be made to normalize Iraq’s relations with the region and with the international community at large, the report says.  Iraq’s neighbours have legitimate concerns and should be heard, while its sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity must also be fully respected.  A sovereign Iraq naturally aspires to regain its rightful place among the community of nations.

The report notes that the seventh meeting of the neighbouring countries was held in Amman, Jordan, on 5 and 6 January 2005, attended by the Foreign Ministers of Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey and Syria, as well as the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran.  In the concluding communiqué, participants confirmed their readiness to cooperate with the Interim Government of Iraq, to broaden political participation in the spirit of national dialogue and consensus-building and to promote Iraq’s transition to a united, democratic and pluralistic State, with a federal structure, if so decided by the Iraqi people, in which political and human rights are observed, and bilateral and regional treaties and agreements are respected by all countries concerned.

Statement by Special Representative of Secretary-General

ASHRAF JEHANGIR QAZI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, noting that the Council had given the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) a firm mandate to be implemented as circumstances permitted, said he had looked at how to use it more effectively as a discreet facilitator and sounding board for ideas and approaches that could further an inclusive political process.  Accordingly, he had met with Iraqi leaders and representatives across the political spectrum in order to understand their perspectives and had emphasized the vital importance of gradually building trust among the various political entities through sustained dialogue, mutual accommodation and confidence-building measures.

Following Iraq’s historic elections, the convening of the Transitional National Assembly on 16 March and last week’s election of a new President and two Vice-Presidents were further testimony to Iraq’s progress towards a democratic future, he said.  The election of the Presidency Council, in particular, was a clear expression of the new leadership’s commitment to work towards national unity through peaceful democratic means.  The quicker the formation of the Transition Government could be completed, the sooner Iraq would move forward to the next phase of its political transition.

The organization of three simultaneous elections on 30 January had been a formidable feat, matched by a formidable statement of support from voters throughout Iraq, he said.  While the overall registered voter turnout had been healthy, particularly in the north and south, there had been significant regional variations.  In certain parts, too many people would not or could not participate in the elections, whether as voters or as candidates, and as a result certain groups -- particularly Sunni Arabs -- had found themselves underrepresented in the Transitional National Assembly.  Nevertheless, all the major parties, including those that had not participated in the elections, had engaged in intensive negotiations for the formation of the Government and regarding participation in the constitution-making process.  It was important that no community should feel alienated from the political process.

He said the road ahead presented great opportunities, as well as serious challenges, the main challenge being to consolidate national unity through dialogue and reconciliation, while preserving Iraq’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity.  Regardless of religious and sectarian background, it was in the interest of every Iraqi to contribute to the forging of a broad political consensus on the way forward, and Iraqis were looking to their new leaders to exercise their responsibilities wisely to and efficiently in that regard.  The drafting of a national constitution provided an historic opportunity for Iraqis to come together.  With the formation of their new Government, they had demonstrated their capacity to make hard political compromises in the national interest.

Those who had not participated in the elections now had the opportunity to agree on a platform and a mechanism by which their concerns could be reflected in the constitutional debate, he said.  They also faced the need to organize themselves and mobilize their supporters to vote in the constitutional referendum and the subsequent elections.  No constituency should fear becoming the new victims in a new Iraq.  Those parties that had benefited most from the elections had already demonstrated foresight and wisdom in articulating a policy of outreach and inclusion, in counselling restraint in the face of provocative acts of violence, and in negotiating mutually agreeable understandings for the formation of a Transition Government.  Most importantly, they had chosen to inscribe their action peacefully within a national framework and in the common interest, with all the concomitant responsibilities and opportunities.  In that regard, the public assurances by prominent leaders against pursuing a sectarian agenda or imposing majoritarian views on issues in which all Iraqis had a stake, including the nature and character of the IraqiState, were welcome.  In the period ahead, it would be incumbent on the major parties to ensure that the views and interests of minority communities and civic groups were adequately represented in the constitution-drafting exercise.

Political, economic and security challenges would continue to confront Iraq, he warned.  But if they were approached on the basis of developing a national consensus, the Transitional Assembly should succeed in creating a new and stronger political framework, in which all Iraqis were enabled to contribute their skills and energies to building and defending a democratic, pluralistic and prosperous country.  If properly conducted, the constitution-drafting exercise would provide an opportunity for those who had so far stayed away from the political process to reconsider their options.  It must also provide an opportunity for Iraqi civil society, down to the grass-roots level, to participate by providing critical input.  A constitution emerging from such a process would not be easily set aside and would serve generations to come.

Noting that the Transition Government would have the primary responsibility and duty to facilitate the inclusive, participatory and transparent constitution-making process, he said.  However, it behoved all of Iraq’s communities to make a genuine effort to reach out to one another as Iraqis, first and foremost, and to reconcile their differences within the realm of dialogue and political reconciliation competition.  In accordance with its mandate, the United Nations, if requested, stood ready to assist the constitution-making process and to coordinate offers of international assistance.

A credible political process offered the best prospect for improving the security environment, which remained difficult in certain parts of the country, he said.  Although there had been an apparent reduction in the number of violent incidents since the elections, the insurgency’s tactics and lethality continued to evolve and remained a cause of concern.  The better and the faster Iraqi security forces could be trained, the sooner they would be able to assume their responsibilities and take charge of Iraq’s security.

The human rights situation continued to warrant close attention, he said, adding that it was largely the innocent civilian non-combatants who were affected by violence and the use of force.  In some areas, the population remained deprived of the protection to which they were entitled under international humanitarian law.  Continuing reports of detentions and the absence of adequate arrangements for due process must also be addressed.  In those areas where security was relatively stable, the concerned authorities should be able to give greater attention to the protection of human rights.

The international community could critically support Iraq’s transition by stepping up reconstruction and development assistance both through the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq and bilaterally, he said.  The UNAMI was taking measures to improve its delivery capacity, while keeping the evolving security situation in mind.  The Mission was also prepared to play an enhanced coordinating role between donor countries and organizations, on the one hand, and designated Iraqi authorities, on the other.  That would help the effectiveness of the international assistance in a range of fields to the benefit of the Iraqi people.

An improvement in the overall security environment was essential for an expansion of United Nations activities, he emphasized, adding that almost all Iraqi interlocutors wanted the Organization to assume greater responsibilities and a greater visibility.  The UNAMI had already opened liaison offices in Erbil and Basra, ahead of the possible deployment of a number of humanitarian and development staff, which would be indispensable if those offices were to fulfil their essential functions concerning relief and development.  The Mission would be assessing the scope for increased humanitarian and development initiatives, consistent with the security of United Nations staff.  Hopefully, the arrival of newly contributed guard units would encourage other countries to consider supporting the expansion of United Nations activities by practical, as well as moral, support.

Other Statements

ANNE PATTERSON (United States) briefed the Council on the efforts and progress of the Multinational Force in fulfilling its mandate, noting that the situation in Iraq today was very different from that on which her delegation reported in December 2004.  On 30 January, the world witnessed the bravery, courage and resolve of the Iraqi people as they demonstrated their commitment to democracy.  The votes of approximately 60 per cent of eligible Iraqis proved that they would not be intimidated from cooperating with the Iraqi Government and participating in a peaceful political process.

On election day, she recalled, roughly 130,000 Iraqi security personnel were on duty, securing all 5,200 polling places with multiple rings of security, protecting voters and polling centres from over 100 attacks, and detaining more than 200 suspected insurgents.  Not a single polling site was penetrated that day.  The performance of the Iraqi Security Forces demonstrated growing capability and testified to the successful, continuing cooperation between the Iraqi Government and the Multinational Force.

The Multinational Force comprised 27 countries, in addition to the United States, and had more than 130,000 personnel.  It coordinated closely with the Iraqi Government at the local and national levels to employ more effective tactics to defeat the insurgents and prevent their attacks.  The United States Embassy and Multinational Force leadership continued to attend, at the Iraqi Government’s invitation, Iraq’s Ministerial Committee on National Security, which set the broad framework for Iraq security policy, consistent with resolution 1546.

Iraq remained a very difficult security environment, she stated.  Terrorists and insurgents remained determined to try to thwart Iraq’s progress towards peace and democracy.  They continued a brutal campaign of attacks and intimidation against Iraqi leaders and citizens, Iraqi security forces, private citizens and aid workers from many countries, and the Multinational Force.

According to the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq, over 150,000 security forces within the Ministries of Interior and Defence had been equipped and trained.  Some 85,000 Interior Ministry troops included regular police; members of special police commando, public order and mechanized battalions; border guard units; and dignitary-protection elements.  Defence Ministry forces numbered 65,000 and included troops from the regular Iraqi army, which now included both the intervention force and the National Guard, the air force, navy and special operations.

Building the Iraqi Security Force remained a “work in progress” and a top priority, she stated.  The Multinational Security Transition Command and the Iraqi Ministries of Interior and Defence continued to work closely together to recruit, train and equip Iraq’s security forces.  More time and continued Multinational Force support were needed before the Iraqi security forces reached full operational capacity.

In addition to training Iraqi Security Forces, the Multinational Force continued to conduct the full spectrum of military operations in order “to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq”.  The Force continued to work arduously to conduct traditional security and stability operations, as well as recover and destroy munitions and landmines provide air support, conduct maritime interception operations, and protect multinational reconstruction efforts.  What had changed since the last report was the increasing use of Iraqi Security Forces for those tasks, supported by the Multinational Force as required.  That trend would continue and increase in the near term as the Iraqi Security Forces become more and more capable.

Military forces and civil affairs personnel, in coordination with the Iraqi Government, international donors, and international and national non-governmental organizations, also worked to provide civil, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance throughout Iraq.  Projects included reconstruction and renovation of hospitals, pharmaceutical stores, primary and literary schools; repair of roads, water and sewage treatment, power supply systems, and public works; provision of medical care; and water purification.

The Multinational Force continued to disburse funds to build and improve infrastructure, and provide for the welfare of the citizens and support education.  The Force had also provided local security forces with communication, investigation and facility equipment, as well as donated equipment and medicine to Iraqi health centres.

The United Nations had played an important role thus far in Iraq’s political transition process, particularly in the important assistance provided to the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq.  She urged the United Nations to prepare in advance to promote consensus-building on the drafting of a national constitution.  Security for UNAMI was a necessary condition for the United Nations to fulfil its mandate.  Since August 2004, United States troop contingents had performed that function.  More recently, however, consistent with resolution 1546, a distinct entity under the unified command of the Multinational Force assumed the distinct mission of providing security for the United Nations presence in Iraq.  She was pleased to report that Georgian troops had assumed that mission in Baghdad from the United States.

In addition, Romanian troops were currently deployed in Basra and were prepared to provide security for United Nations officials upon their arrival this summer.  As the United Nations expanded its activities in Iraq, its security needs would increase.  She encouraged countries to provide additional assistance to the protection force, either through the provision of funds or troops.  That protection force would be a necessary precondition for an expanded United Nations presence.

She welcomed the deployment of United Nations Liaison Detachment Teams to Basra and Erbil, and looked forward to deployment of additional, substantive staff.  She would like to see the United Nations expand implementation of its responsibilities for economic and humanitarian reconstruction assistance, and a robust United Nations presence in Basra and Erbil would serve that purpose.  In addition, it was expected that offices in Basra and Erbil would be necessary to support the Iraqis in the next phase of the political transition.

SAMIR SUMAIDA’IE (Iraq) said his country had just marked the two-year anniversary of the fall of the previous regime.  Prior to 2003, Iraq had been ruled by a brutal tyrant whose regime seemed permanently entrenched.  It had assumed and maintained power against the will of the people of Iraq over a period of 35 years.  After the fall of the tyrant and the pillars of his regime, institutions of government had begun slowly to be re-established by Iraqis.  First had come the formation of the Governing Council, followed closely by the appointment of the first set of ministers.

He said that the in concluding the 15 November Agreement, the Iraqi Governing Council had undertaken to craft a fundamental law to establish the principles upon which the new IraqiState was to be founded and to yield authority to a sovereign Government.  Iraqis had met that obligation, and the Governing Council had voluntarily relinquished power and dissolved itself as the Iraqi Interim Government, reasserting Iraq’s sovereignty.  The Iraqi Interim Government had committed itself to extinguishing its own mandate by holding elections by 31 January 2005.  Once again, Iraqis had met the deadline they had set for themselves, and elections had been held on time despite incredible difficulties in much of the country.

Since the election, the political process continued to unfold, he said.  The results of the elections and the two-thirds barrier stipulated by the Transitional Administrative Law meant that the prevailing parties had to engage in political accommodation to form the National Unity Government.  The Presidency Council had now been elected and the Prime Minister named.  The incoming Iraqi Transitional Government would soon start preparing to write a permanent constitution and complete the building of fully legitimate State institutions.  That process was expected to be concluded by the end of the year, at which time elections would be held for the first Government operating under a permanent constitution.

The journey had not been easy, nor would it have been possible without outside help, he noted, adding that Iraq continued to face the vicious reaction of determined and well resourced foes bent on derailing the project.  But now that Iraqis had had their first taste of freedom, they would not be denied.  Notwithstanding the challenges they had faced, they had met every undertaking they had made to themselves and others.  Iraqis had also taken, and were about to undertake, steps to be reintegrated into the world system.  Iraq expected to seek membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the coming year.

He said the new Iraq wished to become a source of stability and an engine for growth in the region, harbouring no hostile intent against anyone.  Its relations with countries outside the region had also evolved favourably, and many countries that had expressed reservations about the decision to remove the previous regime by military force had risen to the challenge of assisting Iraq in its efforts to rebuild.  Most significantly, the Paris Club had decided to forgive 80 per cent of the debts accumulated by Iraq’s previous rulers, and many countries had offered a wide array of assistance, financial and otherwise.

As Iraq advanced on the road to freedom and normalcy against implacable though weakening resistance by terrorists and other forces of reaction, he said, and as it reintegrated itself into the community of nations, two factors remained vital:  the continued resolute support of the international community was absolutely essential and had been forthcoming; and, equally importantly, Iraq needed relief from the shackles and burdens placed upon it during the previous regime in order to contain it.  Those onerous obligations had been intended to keep the old rogue regime in check, and to limit the harm it could do to its people and to the world at large.  But the new Iraq, far from needing to be restrained, needed encouragement and support.  It needed to be allowed to bandage its wounds and rebuild in peace.

It was now time for the Security Council to revisit its pre-April 2003 resolutions and dismantle the structures, legal, bureaucratic and otherwise, which had outlived their relevance, he said.  In that respect, time was an important factor.  Iraq must not be kept waiting month after month and year after year to do what everybody knew must be done eventually.  Iraq was a fledgling democracy committed to the rule of law, both internationally and domestically.  As such, it had the legitimate right to expect to be treated like any other MemberState.

He said that in situations where the United Nations had been entrusted with the management of Iraqi funds, it was very much in the Organization’s interest to be open and transparent and to recall all the times that its obligations with respect to such funds were fiduciary.  Iraq expected to have full access to information on all Iraqi accounts.  In that, Iraqi leaders would be able to assure their people that their interests had been safeguarded and would proceed, with the help of the United Nations, to close all outstanding files in an orderly fashion.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.