SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAQ, BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL, STRESSES NEED TO TRANSFORM WAR-TORN COUNTRY INTO THEATRE OF PEACE, RECONSTRUCTION

15 March 2007
SC/8971

SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAQ, BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL, STRESSES NEED TO TRANSFORM WAR-TORN COUNTRY INTO THEATRE OF PEACE, RECONSTRUCTION

15 March 2007
Security Council
SC/8971
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5639th Meeting (PM)

SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAQ, BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL, STRESSES NEED

TO TRANSFORM WAR-TORN COUNTRY INTO THEATRE OF PEACE, RECONSTRUCTION

Calling on the Iraqi Government to do more to inspire its citizens’ confidence in a promising agenda of political reforms, and urging neighbouring countries to do their part to help restore stability, the senior United Nations envoy to Iraq told the Security Council today that the war-torn country must be transformed from a theatre of conflict to a theatre of peace and reconstruction.

“To re-establish an acceptable level of security in Baghdad and the wider Iraq, there must be simultaneous progress on the political front,” Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country said in an open briefing that was also addressed by Adil Abdal Mahdi, the Vice-President of Iraq.

He said the Government of Iraq must take all necessary measures to ensure that all its citizens perceived its actions to be on their behalf and in their interest.  Only then would security operations help bring the Iraqi people together.  Previous plans, initiatives and statements had not resulted in tangible and sustained improvements for the long-suffering citizens, and conditions must be created for the emergence of an inclusive and participatory political process.

Describing the ever-present menace of political, sectarian and criminal violence that “reflected the grim reality of life in Iraq”, he warned of the danger that would be posed by any additional conflicts in the already volatile Middle East.  Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had called on regional and international Powers not to use the country as a venue to wage their conflicts, and the United Nations was determined to encourage neighbouring States to develop a sustained and constructive dialogue to minimize the prospect of Iraq’s tragedy being exacerbated by the wider problems of the region.

United States Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, reporting on behalf of the Multinational Force-Iraq, said that, despite the sobering scale of violent attacks, the Iraqi Government and people continued to pursue their political and economic development and security goals.  Towards that end, the Council of Representatives had passed a law in January that established an Independent Higher Election Commission –- a key step in preparing for provincial elections.  Late last month, the Council of Ministers had approved the draft hydrocarbon law that, together with complementary legislation, would ensure national control and equitable distribution of Iraq’s oil wealth.

In response to the ongoing attacks in Baghdad, he said the Prime Minister Maliki had announced -- and the Council of Representatives had approved -- the Baghdad Security Plan to renew efforts by the Iraqi security forces to lead operations and secure the capital against insurgents and militias.  That Plan included the commitment of elements from nine additional Iraqi army battalions to the operation.  Announcing a “New Way Forward” on 10 January, United States President George W. Bush had committed an additional 21,500 troops to the Iraqi-led effort, with 4,400 committed in early March.

He said the Iraqi Government remained engaged in efforts to build positive relations with its neighbours.  Over the last three months, Syria and Iraq had reopened their embassies in each other’s capitals and Iraq had re-established its embassy in Saudi Arabia.  The Iraqi Government had also invited Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as Bahrain, Egypt, the five permanent Security Council members and the United Nations to a meeting in Baghdad on 10 March, where all attendees had announced their support for the country’s security and stability.

“The birth of a new Iraq can only happen with the support of neighbouring countries,” said Mr. Adbal Madi, who is in New York ahead of an international conference tomorrow to update United Nations Member States, donors and others on the five-year plan known as the International Compact with Iraq.  Bilateral and multilateral meetings over the past month had succeeded in bringing the country and its neighbours together, and had borne much fruit.

Such meetings could discourage outside interference in Iraq’s domestic affairs, while proving that the country was able to help its neighbours engage in dialogue, thus helping to reduce regional tensions and prevent an upsurge in violence.  For its part, Iraq’s national unity Government had set its sights on re-establishing security and rebuilding the political structure and economy.  Hopefully, 2007 would prove a decisive year in completing the reorganization of the Iraqi State and promoting international partnership towards the achievement of peace.

Turning to the subject of internally displaced persons, he said the Baghdad Security Plan took into account the need to guarantee their security, so they could return home.  According to the International Organization for Migration and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 2 million Iraqi refugees could be found in Jordan and Syria.  A joint commission involving Iraq and other countries interested in resolving that problem would be created as a result of the 10 March meeting.

Iraq was fully aware of the burden borne by its two “brother countries”, but hoped they would treat the refugees in accordance with international humanitarian law.  Iraq also hoped those refugees would be given legal residency and other assistance, while awaiting their return home.  He welcomed UNHCR’s announcement of an international conference on this matter on 17 and 18 April.

Also speaking were the representatives of Congo, Panama, Qatar, Slovakia, Italy, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Belgium, Ghana, France, Peru, China, United Kingdom and South Africa.

The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:20 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Iraq and hear a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

Statements

ASHRAF JEHANGIR QAZI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, said the latest report on the situation in that country provided a sobering description of the difficulties facing the Government and people in their search for basic security, human rights and social welfare.  The ever-present menace of political, sectarian and criminal violence was, yet again, a major feature in the report, reflecting the grim reality of life in Iraq.  While the resulting humanitarian and human rights crises had deepened, it had also attracted unprecedented attention through the actions of the United Nations system, especially its refugee and human rights agencies.

Because of the severity of the crisis facing Iraq, the Government and the Multinational Force-Iraq had begun to implement a new security plan for Baghdad with mixed results, he said.  On one hand, there had been a marked reduction in the number of violent incidents and unidentified bodies found tortured in the streets; militia and insurgent leaders had been arrested from both sides of the sectarian divide; Iraqi security forces had undertaken operations throughout all of Baghdad’s neighbourhoods; and some initial success had been achieved in encouraging displaced families to return.

On the other hand, he said, there was a widespread belief that the problems posed by militias were temporarily in abeyance; there had been continuing mass-casualty attacks on civilians in east Baghdad and other towns, mainly through vehicle-borne explosive devices; and chlorine had been used to terrorize the population, even though the actual additional casualties sustained to date had been relatively low.  Both the Government and the Multinational Force recognized that security measures in themselves, however successful, could only provide part of the solution.

To re-establish an acceptable level of security in Baghdad and the wider Iraq, there must be simultaneous progress on the political front, he stressed.  The Government of Iraq must take all necessary measures to ensure that all its citizens perceived its actions to be on their behalf and in their interest.  Only then would security operations help bring the Iraqi people together.  Previous plans, initiatives and statements had not resulted in tangible and sustained improvements for the long-suffering citizens, and conditions must be created in order for an inclusive and participatory political process to emerge.

“For there to be progress, there also has to be a general acknowledgement that the constitutionally elected Government must be fully supported and assisted in implementing its reform programmes,” he said, stressing that, in turn, the Government must accord the highest priority to bringing about genuine political reconciliation among the country’s diverse peoples.  Without it, no security, political or economic process would bring about lasting stability.  The constitutional review process could be turned into a very effective instrument for strengthening national reconciliation, compromise and consensus on fundamental issues.

The international community had a significant role to play in that respect, he continued.  The 10 March Baghdad meeting of Iraq’s neighbours, the permanent members of the Security Council and others had offered the first opportunity of its kind to provide focus and momentum to regional and international efforts to support Iraq.  Tomorrow’s meeting on the International Compact with Iraq, under the Secretary-General’s chairmanship, would be able to review the political, legislative, security and economic progress the Government had made and intended to achieve in moving towards a shared vision for Iraq.  Hopefully, the meeting would agree on tangible steps that would result in the official launch of the initiative, thereby setting in motion a national, regional and international process to help the fulfil its obligations to its people.

He said that, in his discussions with senior officials throughout the region, he had been struck by their common views on Iraq, especially their commitment to its unity and territorial integrity.  They had all declared their readiness to contribute to a process that could reduce violence, strengthen dialogue and bring about the conditions for economic revival that would improve living conditions.  Neighbouring countries had been assured that the United Nations was committed to ensuring a more coordinated, effective and appropriate response to the growing humanitarian crisis.  Indeed, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had organized a major conference in Geneva on 17 and 18 April to explain the need for such a response and encourage donors to make it possible.

Given the difficult security situation, none of Iraq’s neighbours had insisted on an immediate withdrawal of the Multinational Force, the presence of which had been requested by the Iraqi Government.  Still, many looked forward to the Government’s early assumption of full responsibility for national security.  There was a need to consider a mechanism to achieve regional cooperation in support of Iraq, and the recent proposal to establish working groups on security, refugees and energy supply could be an important component of such a mechanism.

“ Iraq must be transformed from a theatre of conflict to a theatre of peace and reconstruction,” he declared, recalling that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had called on regional and international Powers not to use the country as a venue to wage their conflicts.  The United Nations was determined to encourage neighbouring States to develop a sustained and constructive dialogue to minimize the prospect of Iraq’s tragedy being exacerbated by the wider regional problems.  The international community must encourage that effort, and all concerned should do their utmost to ensure that further conflict in the region was avoided.

He said he had been struck in recent months by the number of times the United Nations had been urged by senior Iraqi and regional officials to play a more active, direct and constructive role across a much broader range of issues under the Organization’s current mandate.  “In response to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, it is only natural that people’s expectations of the United Nations rise.”  The Government and people of Iraq deserved the best that the United Nations could offer in terms of facilitating reconciliation, as well as refugee, human rights and humanitarian protection processes.

ALEJANDRO WOLFF (United States), reporting on behalf of the Multinational Force-Iraq, said that, despite the sobering scale of violent attacks, the Iraqi Government and people continued to pursue their political and economic development and security goals.  Towards that end, some important steps had been taken since the start of the year.  On 23 January, the Council of Representatives had passed a law that established an Independent Higher Election Commission –- a key step in preparing for Iraqi provincial elections.  On 26 February, the Council of Ministers had approved the draft hydrocarbon law that, together with complementary legislation, would ensure national control and equitable distribution of Iraq’s oil wealth.

He said that, during tomorrow’s United Nations-hosted International Compact meeting, the final Compact document would be shared with members of the international community.  The Compact was a key component of Iraq’s efforts to complete its transition to financial self-sufficiency and integration into the regional and global economy.  Active participation by regional and global partners in the International Compact with Iraq would be critical to assisting the country’s development efforts.

Although progress had been made on the electoral and economic fronts, overall violence and the resulting instability continued, he said.  In response to the ongoing attacks in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had announced in January -- and the Council of Representatives had approved -- the Baghdad Security Plan to renew the efforts of the Iraqi security forces to lead operations and secure the capital against insurgents and militias.  The Plan included a commitment of elements from nine additional Iraqi army battalions to the operation.  Announcing a “New Way Forward” on 10 January, United States President George W. Bush had committed an additional 21,500 troops to the Iraqi-led effort, with 4,400 committed in early March.  “While we must be cautious about drawing results of the new Baghdad Security Plan, there has been a decrease in violence in the Iraqi Capital.”

However, lasting stability in Iraq required more than a security element, he said.  The Baghdad Security Plan included increased economic, political and reconstruction efforts to improve the Government’s ability to meet the needs of its people and assist with security.  The Iraqi Government would spend $10 billion on infrastructure and reconstruction projects.  The United States and other Governments had announced assistance plans to support reform and development.  Assistance was also needed to address the grave humanitarian situation.  In addition to the daily suffering of Iraq’s population due to the ongoing violence, some 2 million Iraqis had fled the country and another 1.7 million were internally displaced.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had launched a $60 million appeal to fund its work over the next year to assist the vulnerable population.

Turning to the security situation, he said the insurgents, extremists and terrorists remained capable of, and intent on, carrying out attacks against Iraqi civilians, officials and security forces.  The past three-month period had marked a continuation of violence in the country, although there had been a recent downturn in Baghdad.  Al-Qaida continued to focus its attacks, in order to destabilize the Iraqi Government and force the Multinational Force to withdraw.  Much of the violence was attributable to sectarian motives, including hostility between factions within sects.  More than 80 per cent of the violence observed by the Multinational Force was limited to four provinces -- Baghdad, Anbar, Salah ad Din and Diyala, all within 30 miles of the capital.  Such violence, however, also occurred in other population centres, such as Kirkuk, Mosul and Basra.

Iraqi civilians and the security forces suffered the majority of the causalities, he said.  Attacks, including the 3 February truck bomb in the centre of Baghdad that had killed 105 civilians and wounded 251, continued, in an effort to intimidate and demoralize the Iraqi people and destabilize the country.  Attacks on infrastructure had decreased, down from over four per week in 2005 and early 2006 to an average of one per week recently.  Yet, weak ministerial oversight and ineffectual rapid-repair teams had proved major impediments to improving the supply of essential services.

He added that, in announcing the Baghdad Security Plan in January, the Prime Minister and his Government had committed to several actions by the Iraq security forces, including holding accountable all that broke the law, without regard to sect or political affiliation and not allowing militias to replace the State control over local security.  While it was too early to point to a firm trend, the initial security effort under the new Plan had recently reduced violence in Baghdad, an effort assisted by civilian-provided tips leading to several insurgent bomb-making sites and weapons caches in the Baghdad area.  As part of measures to address the source of the violence, the Iraqi Government had allocated about $150 million of its 2007 budget to a demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process for militias.  Putting that process into action, continued political progress on national reconciliation and the passage of a de-Ba’athification law were important components in ensuring Iraq’s long-term stability.

He said the Iraqi security forces were increasingly taking the operational lead and demonstrating an increased capability to plan and executive counter-insurgency operations.  On 20 December 2006, the Multinational Force had transferred security responsibility for Najaf province, with a population of nearly 1 million residents, to Iraqi control.  In February, the British Government had announced that it would withdraw 1,600 of its 7,100 troops from southern Iraq by the end of the year, as it transitioned increased security responsibility to Iraqi security forces.  Iraq and the Multinational Force continued to work to address the logistical capability needs of the Iraq security forces.  On 27 February, special Iraq army forces had detained 16 suspected militiamen during operations with coalition advisers in Sadr City, targeting the leadership of several rogue Jaysh al-Mahdi cells who allegedly directed and perpetrated sectarian murder, torture and kidnapping.  Cooperation between Iraqi forces and the Multinational Force was also evident in other areas of Iraq.

Concerning security for the United Nations, he said the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) was playing an important role, and its leadership and expertise would continue to be needed as Iraq moved forward to prepare for provincial elections, possible referenda, national reconciliation, the constitutional review and to implement the International Compact.  The Organization’s efforts to protect and promote the rights of Iraqis and to assist the vulnerable were critical to stability, and a robust UNAMI presence remained essential to those efforts.  Multinational forces, notably contingents from Georgia, Romania and Republic of Korea, continued to provide security for the United Nations in Baghdad, Basra and Irbil, respectively.  Under a separate United Nations agreement, Fijian troops also provided static and close protection for United Nations personnel and facilities in the capital.

He said the Iraqi Government remained engaged in efforts to build positive relations with its neighbours.  Over the last three months, Syria and Iraq had reopened their embassies in each other’s capitals and Iraq had re-established its embassy in Saudi Arabia.  The Iraqi Government had also invited Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as Bahrain, Egypt, the five permanent Security Council members and the United Nations to a meeting in Baghdad on 10 March.  All attendees had announced their support for the country’s security and stability.

Concluding, he said the Iraqi Government continued its efforts to secure a stable future for its citizens and further progress in the political, economic and security arenas was essential to helping it achieve its goals.  The international community’s continued support remained important to those efforts, rooted in respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

ADIL ABDAL MAHDI, Vice-President of Iraq, said the political and constitutional process that had begun in 2006, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1546 (2004), was now complete.  Hopefully, 2007 would prove a decisive year in completing the reorganization of the Iraqi State and promoting international partnership towards the achievement of peace.

For its part, the national unity Government had set its sights on re-establishing security and rebuilding the political structure and economy, he said.  It had redoubled its efforts to combat terror, insurgency, crime -- including religiously motivated crime -- and attacks by militias.  It had also adopted, in conjunction with the Multinational Force, the Baghdad Security Plan that would allow Iraqi forces to take over at the end of the year.  The Government had also embarked on a process of national reconciliation that, hopefully, would have a positive impact on the security situation.

Numerous conferences and national meetings had been held, bringing together representatives of various religious and tribal groups, as well as different political parties, he said.  A reconciliation conference for former military officers had been held at the beginning of March.  In addition, Parliament had recently adopted the 2007 budget, which allocated $10 billion to investment, and plans were in place to double the allocations to the education and health sectors.  It was estimated that, as a result of the new budget, 130,000 jobs would be created.  Hopefully, the reduction in unemployment would contribute to improved security.  Meanwhile, if the draft law on hydrocarbons (oil and gas) currently before Parliament was adopted, it would provide fresh impetus for the economy and have a positive impact on the services sector.

However, Iraq would not be able to develop its economy on its own and would require international assistance and support, he stressed.  It was to be hoped that tomorrow’s meeting, convened by the Secretary-General, would set a date and venue for the ratification of the International Compact with Iraq.  Meanwhile, Iraq looked forward to the fifth donor conference for its reconstruction, to take place on 19 March in Istanbul.  The birth of a new Iraq could only happen with the support of neighbouring countries.  Bilateral and multilateral meetings over the past month had succeeded in bringing Iraq and its neighbours together and had borne much fruit.  Perhaps such meetings would discourage outside interference in Iraq’s domestic affairs, while proving that the country was able to help its neighbours engage in dialogue, thus helping to reduce regional tensions and prevent an upsurge in violence.

Turning to the subject of internally displaced persons, he said the Baghdad Security Plan had taken account of the need to guarantee their security, so they could return home.  According to the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR, 2 million Iraqi refugees could be found in Jordan and Syria.  A joint commission involving Iraq and other countries interested in resolving that problem would be created as a result of the 10 March meeting.  Iraq was fully aware of the burden borne by its two “brother countries”, but hoped they would treat the refugees in accordance with international humanitarian law.  It was also to be hoped that those refugees would be given legal residency and other assistance while awaiting their return home.  Iraq welcomed UNHCR’s announcement of an international conference on 17 and 18 April.

JUSTIN BIABOROH-IBORO ( Congo) said the serious situation in Iraq continued to be marked by an alarming level of violence, hindering all serious efforts at reconstruction and heightening tensions among various groups within the country.  It also heightened regional tensions and hampered international efforts to support the Government’s struggle to ensure stability and peace.  Congo condemned “this orgy of violence” and appealed for increased efforts to promote a dialogue of national reconciliation aimed at, among other things, the dismantling of militias, an end to arms imports, the replacement of international forces with national forces, serious discussion of Iraq’s natural resources and respect for its territorial integrity.  While it was up to the Government to create the environment for such a dialogue, the international community must also do its part to ensure stabilization.

ALFREDO SUESCUM ( Panama) expressed concern over the serious security situation, not only because of the lives lost, but also due to the wider political, social and humanitarian implications, including the pressure that the violence placed on the already fragile infrastructure and basic health and social services.  Resolving Iraq’s problems would require a combination of strong political dialogue and increased international support.  Panama was also concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation, particularly the large numbers of refugees, an issue that cried out for greater regional efforts.  Dealing with humanitarian activities also called for greater efforts by such countries as Syria and Jordan.

He said it was crucial that the region’s peoples -- so different but with so much in common -- work together to bring stability to Iraq.  Panama had noted a strong sectarian component to the humanitarian situation and called upon the Security Council, regional actors and international organizations to work to ease tensions and take necessary steps to support initiatives like the International Compact with Iraq.  But it was upon Iraq’s own initiative that the most significant steps could be taken towards an inclusive society and enhanced political and economic stability.  Panama called on the Iraqi Government to promote dialogue and human dignity.  The broad participation of the Iraqi leaders, regional actors and the international community was the only way to achieve an Iraq at peace.

JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER ( Qatar) said that, while the people of his country were hurt to see the suffering of their Iraqi brethren, political solutions could not be imported from abroad.  However, international support was needed to help Iraq extricate itself from the crisis that threatened its unity and stability.  As such, the International Compact with Iraq would be useful in helping to consolidate peace and in pursuing Iraq’s economic, political and social development over the next five years.  It was important to coordinate United Nations support with that of other international partners to realize the Compact’s vision.

It was just as important to tackle the deteriorating humanitarian situation as it was to work towards national reconciliation, he said, noting that the Iraqi refugee crisis had reached major proportions.  Hopefully, next month’s conference in Geneva would help raise awareness and draw attention to the needs of the displaced and the countries hosting them.  Qatar had always stressed the need to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and to uncover the “real roots” of its crisis.

The way out of that crisis should begin with a focus on the political process rather than a military solution, he said, adding: “Here emerges the role of the wise among the Iraqi communities, who have to mobilize in order to heal the rift in Iraq.”  UNAMI continued to contribute effectively in such areas as constitutional support, electoral assistance and reconstruction, among others.

PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) said the situation in Iraq remained complex, requiring continuous attention and unconditional support.  Challenges on the ground were mounting, with security and the humanitarian situation deteriorating further, sectarian violence increasing and the social and political fabric being further undermined.  It was crucial to mobilize Iraqi and international support to reverse that trend, and essential to ensure Iraqi ownership.  Only the Iraqi people could determine their common destiny and agree on the structure of their State.  Indeed, they and their leadership had clearly demonstrated in the last four years their commitment to Iraq’s transition and stabilization.  There was enough political will to achieve a negotiated political settlement.

The overall improvement in the security and humanitarian situation, as well as the promotion of national reconciliation, human rights and economic welfare were key objectives for Iraq’s Government, he said.  Developing a fully inclusive political process and fostering consensus was the only way to stop the violence and sectarian strife.  Genuine constitutional review and a rethink of the de-Ba’athification process could help Iraq tackle its many challenges.  All efforts should be taken to address the suffering of internally displaced persons and refugees.  The strong involvement of the United Nations in the country’s transition and stabilization remained instrumental, and Slovakia supported its role in developing the International Compact.  It also supported Iraq’s efforts to promote stronger regional dialogue.  Regional actors and Iraq’s immediate neighbours should play a more active role in promoting peace and stability.

ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy), commending UNAMI’s role in the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq in light of the risks, stressed the importance of the United Nations presence.  Hopefully, security conditions would improve, so that the Mission could continue its work.  It was equally important that neighbouring countries show their support; indeed, the 10 March meeting had been something of a turning point in the peace effort.  Given that it had been aimed at establishing broad regional consensus, perhaps it should be followed up by a ministerial meeting involving such countries as the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations.  For its part, Italy -- a member of the International Compact -- stood ready to contribute to all international forums deemed useful by the Iraqi Government.

While international support was critical, the key to success in Iraq clearly lay with its own people, he said.  Italy had recently stressed the importance of national reconciliation to the Iraqi Foreign Minister and encouraged the adoption of measures to foster that goal, including the drafting of a new law on de-Ba’athification and allowing former members of the Iraqi army to serve in the new armed forces.  A continued review of the Constitution was also important, as was the need for concrete economic development measures, including development of the private sector; the drafting of a new hydrocarbon law; and laws on management of natural resources.  Italy had been involved in the reconstruction effort since 2003, spending €240 million in civilian areas.  As proof of its continued desire to step up its support, the Italian Government had signed a bilateral agreement in Rome on 23 January, to provide credit to Iraq.

IGOR SHCHERBAK (Russian Federation), welcoming the Vice-President of Iraq, and expressing solidarity with the Iraqi people, offered his condolences to the families and friends of Iraqis killed in terrorist attacks or sectarian conflict.  Indeed, the Special Representative’s briefing indicated that terrorist activity was at a high level and civil infrastructure in a state of disaster.  The growing number of internally displaced persons and refugees was also a matter of concern.

While the Baghdad Security Plan was intended to stabilize the situation in the capital, a withdrawal of troops had not yet begun, he said, noting that problems in Kirkuk had yet to be settled.  The drafters of the new hydrocarbon law should ensure equal access to those natural resources for all Iraqi communities, through a mechanism that would guarantee the country’s territorial integrity.  That law should also enable foreign entities to work in Iraq on an equal basis, including Russian companies experienced in Iraq’s hydrocarbon market.  Russia noted the importance of the recent international meeting held in Baghdad and would continue to support ideas and proposals consistent with such an approach.  Hopefully, another such international meeting would include all Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia), very concerned by the continuing violence and daily human casualties, said they were preventing Iraqi citizens from carrying out basic, everyday activities.  The international community could not stand idly by.  “We must do our utmost to help to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people and to restore that country’s sovereignty, peace and stability.”  Last year, the President of Indonesia had put forward a “triple-track” proposal to contribute to an early solution of the conflicts in Iraq.  It included all-inclusive reconciliation among the Iraqi parties, the international community’s participation in reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, and the deployment of a United Nations-mandated peacekeeping force after the withdrawal of foreign troops.

He underscored the urgent need to settle the differences among all parties through genuine dialogue across all ethnic and religious groups.  Dialogue would be robust when moderates were empowered with more room and capacity to set the agenda of Iraqi politics and make a tangible impact on peace efforts.  To that end, Indonesia commended Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s fatwa, calling for unity and coexistence based on mutual respect, as well as the formation of joint Sunni and Shiite committees in mixed neighbourhoods throughout the country.  Hopefully, more such initiatives would be considered, particularly in light of their effect on confidence-building throughout Iraq.

JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) expressed concern about the danger posed by the violence in Iraq to the fragile recovery process that was just beginning to take hold.  While Belgium applauded the Government’s recent security enhancements, it wished to stress that a purely security-focused strategy was not the answer.  Belgium supported the Secretary-General’s call for enhanced national, regional and international dialogue to ensure peace and stability.

He went on to note that, while Iraq was clearly not the only country suffering from the continued violence and deteriorating humanitarian situation, it also was not the only country that could effectively meet those challenges.  Iraq’s neighbours must do their part and the international community must boost its efforts in the days and months to come.  Tomorrow’s meeting on the International Compact with Iraq was an opportunity to re-energize the partnership between the international community and the Iraqi Government.  Belgium also applauded UNHCR’s decision to hold a high-level conference in Geneva next month on the refugee situation in Iraq.

L.K. CHIRISTIAN ( Ghana) said positive political progress and a reduction in violence in Iraq were essential preconditions for the success of the International Compact with Iraq.  Ghana lauded UNAMI’s Office of Constitutional Support for its continued assistance to the Council of Representatives’ Constitutional Review Committee in comprehensively reviewing the Iraqi Constitution.  It noted also the Mission’s pledge to assist the Electoral Commission meet the significant remaining challenges in preparing for future electoral events by supporting legislative drafting, developing a governorate-level electoral capacity, advising on electoral systems and developing a credible list of voters.

However, the worsening humanitarian and human rights situation in Iraq was a serious concern, he said, noting the presence of 2 million refugees reportedly in neighbouring countries and the nearly equal number displaced inside Iraq.  The international community should urgently address the dire circumstances of those unfortunate victims of civil strife and sectarian violence.  UNAMI deserved credit for putting mitigating measures in place within the international zone and other parts of Baghdad to reduce security risks to United Nations staff.   Ghana also acknowledged the contribution of Member States through logistical and security support and urged their support of United Nations efforts to help people in need.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) noted the gravity of the security situation in Iraq, pointing out that 35,000 civilians had been killed in 2006 -- or 100 a day –- and 36,000 injured.  In addition, a record high 2 million displaced persons were forced to live in neighbouring countries, while 1.9 million were displaced internally.  The Secretary-General had, for the first time, described the crisis as a humanitarian emergency and, in that light, the Secretariat should specify the possible consequences for the United Nations.

He emphasized the importance of following through on plans for national reconciliation; strengthening relations with neighbouring States; maintaining territorial integrity; and establishing a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, so as to restore Iraq’s sovereignty and responsibility over its own affairs.  For its part, France would contribute to support UNHCR’s efforts and those of non-governmental organizations involved in helping Iraq.  Working within the framework of a United Nations strategy, the transfer of responsibility to Iraqi authorities should take place before year’s end, and the Iraqis must arrive at a settlement soon, or fall even deeper into civil war.

JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru), remarking on the serious instability in Iraq, said sectarian violence had intensified after an initial reduction following the institution of the Baghdad Security Plan.  Reconciliation appeared remote and reconstruction was proceeding at a slow pace.  As a result of the conflict, school attendance had fallen by 50 per cent.  The Iraqi authorities, neighbouring States, “regional protagonists” and other actors must act in concert to bring about stability and reduce the number of internally displaced people and refugees outside the country.

Condemning sectarian violence and rejecting the actions of religious extremists, he said that, as the Iraqi Government worked to reinforce its control over the country, it should leave no room for impunity.  Meanwhile, the emergence of the International Compact with Iraq was significant, though such a concept would be more fruitful if it were accompanied by better security conditions.  Also, better distribution of oil revenues would go a long way towards restoring confidence and trust within the nation.  Peru fully supported UNAMI.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said last weekend’s international and regional conference in Baghdad -– the first within Iraq -– had been a very positive step and, hopefully, that momentum could now be built up towards finding a solution to the current problems.  The people of Iraq had set forth on a course towards political transition, but the country still faced security, humanitarian and political challenges.  The Government must promote political progress and bring all parties into the constitutional review process.  The various factions should renounce the use of force and seek peace and reconciliation through political means.  Meeting violence with violence would only bring about greater insecurity and mistrust.

While the Government had a role to play in stabilizing the country, the Multinational Force should announce a timetable for their withdrawal from the country.  China supported the International Compact with Iraq and hoped it would ensure equal partnership among all parties in the country and presage a new partnership between Iraq and the international community.  There could be no solution without the help and support of Iraq’s neighbours, and China welcomed Iraq’s plan to hold regular meetings with high officials from neighbouring States.  Hopefully, the people of Iraq could work with the international community to build a country that would rival its past glory.

KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said her delegation stood firm with the Iraqi Government in its efforts to face all challenges, including sectarian and other violence.  The countries of the region had a role to play in ensuring peace and working in partnership with Iraq to promote national and regional stability.  The 10 March regional meeting had been an important step in that regard, and the United Kingdom looked forward to the meeting tomorrow of the International Compact with Iraq.   Iraq also needed support as it began its constitutional review.

On UNAMI, she said Member States should ensure that the Mission was fully resourced and that a lack of money would neither hinder nor stop its vital work.  The United Kingdom would shortly transfer its responsibilities in Basra to the Iraqi military, and consolidate its forces at Basra airbase and Her Majesty’s Government was working with the United Nations on the logistics of that move.

Council President DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the 10 March meeting, since it supported all-inclusive processes that could bring about national reconciliation in Iraq and jump-start a dialogue with its neighbours.  However, South Africa was concerned about the high level of violence and human rights abuses by all sides, which overshadowed the peace process.  The crisis had led to the internal displacement of almost 2 million Iraqis and millions more becoming refugees in neighbouring countries, which might lead to a negative spill-over effect in the region.

On other fronts, he said the Security Council had a responsibility to ensure that the Multinational Force exercised their power in a manner consistent with its mandate.  South Africa paid tribute to UNAMI personnel for their fearless service in a situation that demanded concerted attention and action in the region and the rest of the world.  The United Nations had an important role to play, but its full potential could only be realized when its personnel could operate in a safe environment.  It was time for the Organization to assume its leadership role in dealing with the interconnected situations facing the people of the Middle East and Central Asia.

Mr. QAZI, responding to the Council Members’ statements, offered his thanks for the vows of continued support for UNAMI and expressed his deep appreciation to the Vice-President of Iraq, whose presence had provided an extra dimension to the day’s proceedings.  The Secretary-General had placed a high priority on the restoration of peace and normality in Iraq through the Mission and the United Nations country team.  His convening of the International Compact meeting would provide a framework for launching the Compact process and implementing a grand partnership between Iraq and the international community.  That effort demonstrated recognition by all Member States of their stake in Iraq’s success.

Vice-President ABDAL MAHDI thanked the Council Members for their valuable comments, saying their observations would be taken into consideration as Iraq worked towards national reconciliation.  The Government would deal with its citizens without sectarian or factional considerations.  The situation in Iraq had its roots in a violent history, and its political dimensions required needed political solutions rather than military ones.

Meanwhile, he said, the world should not forget the killing of former Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and diplomats, journalists and citizens of the Russian Federation, France, United Kingdom, United States, Algeria and Egypt.  Dealing with those acts of violence was not a responsibility for Iraq alone, but also for its neighbours and the wider international community.  Member States should lend the country a hand in confronting acts of terror, some of which were funded by international groups.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.