IRAQ FACING COMPLEX SERIES OF OVERLAPPING SECTARIAN, ETHNIC CONFLICTS; WORLD COMMUNITY MUST NOT BE SPECTATOR TO CRISIS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

13 June 2007
SC/9041

IRAQ FACING COMPLEX SERIES OF OVERLAPPING SECTARIAN, ETHNIC CONFLICTS; WORLD COMMUNITY MUST NOT BE SPECTATOR TO CRISIS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

13 June 2007
Security Council
SC/9041
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5693rd Meeting* (PM)

Iraq facing complex series of overlapping sectarian, ethnic conflicts;

 

World community must not be spectator to crisis, Security Council told

Special Representative Says International Community Has Vital Security Stake

In Iraq, Inescapable Moral Obligation to Help Government Bring about Stability

With Iraq facing today an exceptionally complex series of overlapping sectarian, political and ethnic conflicts that were beyond the capacity of any one actor or policy to resolve, the international community could not allow itself to become a spectator to the unfolding crisis in Iraq, if only because of the unconscionable human cost involved, the United Nations senior envoy to Iraq told the Security Council this afternoon.

Describing the deepening sense of insecurity and pessimism among many Iraqis, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq said the international community not only had a vital security stake in the stability of Iraq, it also had an inescapable moral obligation to encourage and enable Iraq’s Government in building inclusive and cumulative processes that could bring about stability.  Today’s revisiting of the 22 February 2006 tragedy of the Askari Shrines in Samarra could only add to the concerns.

The hope implicit in resolution 1546 (2004) that the achievements of specific political benchmarks within specific timelines would enable Iraq to progress towards genuine national reconciliation had not been realized, he said.  Achieving benchmarks was not, however, the same as reaching milestones.  While contentious issues had been discussed in several forums, the impact of bitter memories, fresh grievances, perceived discrimination, increasingly entrenched identity politics, mutual mistrust and intolerance and, above all, the horrific and unending killings, had brought about an environment in which constructive discussions leading to lasting reconciliation appeared to be very difficult.

Saying he had come to admire in his three years as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative the resilience of the Iraqi people in adversity, he said they were, after all, human, and entitled at last to see the light at the end of the long dark tunnel they had been forced to live their lives in for so long.  Rather, they saw the world as just watching their tragedy or not doing as much as it should to alleviate their situation.  “But they do not give up hope even if they see little reason for any,” he said.

Following the Special Representative’s statement, Iraq’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari, utterly rejected the obvious attempts to divide the Iraqi people in the hope of sowing the seeds for civil war.  Today’s attack was an attempt to destroy inter-religious harmony, as well as the traditions of tolerance and fraternity within each of Iraq’s various religious traditions.  The shrine -- sacred to both Shia and Sunni and revered by all Iraqis regardless of religion -- was of no military value whatever.  Its destruction -- the second attack on that shrine in 16 months -- had been meant symbolically as a message from terrorists that they were seeking to destroy the fabric of Iraqi society.

Describing the past 12 months as a test of the commitment and courage of the Iraqi Government and people as they had together brokered a difficult, often painful, transition towards a stable and peaceful democracy, he noted that, despite remarkable progress, a complex political, security and economic environment continued to present formidable challenges to the elected leaders tasked with the normalization of the country.  There was no more definitive example of that threat than today’s bombings.

Notwithstanding such senseless acts of violence, he said the Government had nonetheless made “tremendous strides” towards the day when security would be provided by a self-sufficient Iraqi national security force.  That was the ultimate objective and, while Iraqis would always be grateful for their liberation from an absolute despot, “no Iraqi Government official – indeed, no Iraqi citizen -- wanted the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi soil a day longer than is vitally necessary”.  But for today, and at least for the next foreseeable months, the presence of Multinational Force troops was vitally necessary, not only for Iraq, but also to safeguard regional security and stability.

Strongly condemning this morning’s vicious attack on the holy shrines in Samarra and calling on all Iraqis to reject that provocation, United States Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, reporting on behalf of the Multinational Force, said that it was clear that the Iraqi Government confronted significant security challenges as it strived to promote stability and consolidate Iraq’s young democracy.  Success would depend not only on progress in the security sector, where the Multinational Force played an important supporting role, but also on advances in the economic and political fields.

In the political arena, progress on national reconciliation was essential to ensure that security efforts under way resulted in long-term stability in the country and the region, he said, welcoming efforts by Iraqi leaders to that end.  Turning to the economic front, he welcomed the launch of the International Compact with Iraq on 3 May, saying that the emphasis now was on implementing the economic initiatives to which the Government of Iraq had committed.  The international community’s support for Iraq would be important for the Compact’s success, and cooperation between Iraq and the United Nations was key to its success.

Regarding security, he said that insurgents, militias, terrorists and criminals continued their destabilizing actions.  Although it was still too early to project results, there had been signs of a significant shift in the distribution of violence.  While attacks against coalition forces and high-profile terrorist attacks were still frequent, attacks against civilians and sectarian murders in Baghdad had decreased from the levels seen in January.  Iraqi and Multinational Forces continued to establish joint security stations and combat outposts in the city and surrounding areas.  The performance of Iraqi security Forces was critical to the success of those efforts.

Certain countries continued to support violent extremists who sought to undermine Iraq’s political progress, he said.  The flow of foreign terrorists and weapons into Iraq was particularly destabilizing.  He called upon Member States to repudiate that behaviour and endorse Prime Minister Maliki’s repeated requests for an end to foreign interference in Iraq’s political process.  He also looked forward to upcoming discussions on how to revise the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to encourage a robust presence to assist Iraq.

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

The meeting began at 3:20 p.m. and adjourned at 5:30 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Iraq.

It had before it the Secretary-General’s latest report pursuant to paragraph 30 of resolution 1546 (2004), which provides an update on United Nations activities in Iraq since March.  The report also summarizes key political developments during the period under review, particularly efforts by Iraq’s Government to reduce violence and promote national reconciliation, as well as regional and international developments pertaining to Iraq.

The Secretary-General states that Iraq’s political and social fabric continued to come under considerable strain during the reporting period as a result of ongoing political, sectarian and criminal violence.  Despite the efforts of the Iraqi and multinational security forces to stem violence, progress was slower than had been hoped when security initiatives were launched at the start of 2007, as demonstrated by continued attacks on the civilian population, physical infrastructure and political institutions such as the Council of Representatives.

“It is clear that there is a growing understanding that the complex problems facing Iraq are interconnected and their urgent resolution is in the interests of the region and, indeed, the world,” the Secretary-General says.  Several initiatives displayed a new level of solidarity in tackling the impact of the crisis in Iraq.  The discussions at the launch of the International Compact with Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh on 3 May 2007 and at the meeting of the neighbouring States, the permanent five and the Group of Eight (G-8) the following day were notable for their sober appreciation of the need to shore up the Government’s reconciliation efforts by concerted international support.

The Sharm el-Sheikh meetings demonstrated that the international community, while recognizing the complexities of the situation, is willing to work together in solidarity with Iraq.  It is now incumbent upon Iraqi leaders to implement the commitments for the benefit of the citizens of Iraq.  Given the continued violence, which is testing the country’s unity, additional efforts are needed for confidence-building through national dialogue.  The United Nations stands ready to assist Iraq’s Government in this regard.

He adds that the constitutional review process and the work of the Council of Representatives provided an opportunity for expanding political dialogue.  The Constitutional Review Committee is to be commended for its constructive work.  A package of its recommendations could address some of the perceived shortcomings of the Constitution.  However, important constitutional issues remain unaddressed in the recommendations put forward to the Council of Representatives.  As a result, progress was delayed on other vital legislative requirements such as laws on hydrocarbons, provincial elections, de-Baathification and amnesty.  The establishment of the Independent High Electoral Commission was a notable achievement during the reporting period.

“The political process in Iraq is entering an exceptionally sensitive phase,” the Secretary-General states.  It requires efforts at building bridges and calls for measures aimed at stabilizing the country.  Contentious issues, therefore, such as the referendum on Kirkuk and other disputed areas, must be approached carefully.  Solutions must be found through sustained national dialogue, the patient search for compromise and within the framework of the Constitution.

As demonstrated through the preparations for the Sharm el-Sheikh meetings, the United Nations remains committed to assisting Iraq’s Government, he said.  There have been growing calls for a larger United Nations role in Iraq.  “Circumstances permitting, I would consider an expanded role and presence in Iraq where possible”.  For this, clear direction from the Council and Iraq’s Government would be essential, and better coordination with major international partners would be welcomed.  Of particular importance would be the creation of the necessary infrastructure and operational conditions for the United Nations to play its role.  This includes adequate protection and security arrangements, air support and, in particular, the construction of secure facilities.

It is the Secretary-General’s hope that the Council and Member States would continue to provide strong political and logistical support for the Organization’s presence in Iraq.

Briefing by Secretary-General’s Special Representative

ASHRAF JEHANGIR QAZI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, said the report before the Council illustrated the severity of the challenges facing Iraq, and the efforts of Iraq’s Government, neighbouring countries and the wider international community to address them.  The gravity of the situation was self-evident from the daily misery, suffering and indignities endured by the people of Iraq.  Despite the noble efforts of the Iraqi and multinational security forces to stem the violence, progress had been slower and more uncertain than had been hoped for when the current set of security initiatives had been launched four months ago.  Iraq was today faced with an exceptionally complex series of overlapping sectarian, political and ethnic conflicts that were beyond the capacity of any one actor or policy to resolve.  The situation had contributed to a deepening sense of insecurity and pessimism among many Iraqis.  Today’s revisiting of the 22 February 2006 tragedy of the Askari Shrines in Samarra could only add to the concerns.

Noting that it had been nearly three years since he had taken up his assignment as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, he said he had come to admire the wonderful resilience of the Iraqi people in adversity.  “But they are, after all, human, and they are entitled at last to see the light at the end of the long dark tunnel they had been forced to live their lives in for so long”, he said.  Rather, they saw themselves and their children engulfed by every kind of violence, without protection and often without basic services.  They saw their leaders still struggling to reach basic agreements on basic issues.  They saw an endless blame game, instead of mutual accommodation and reconciliation.  “They see the world as just watching their tragedy or not doing as much as it should to alleviate their situation,” he said.  “But they do not give up hope even if they see little reason for any,” he added.

In his report, the Secretary-General had commented on the positive and serious efforts during the reporting period to activate the International Compact for Iraq; establish the working groups with Iraq’s neighbours in the field of security, energy supplies and displaced Iraqis; and review the Constitution and set up a new electoral commission.  Those were important and valuable developments.  There were also political, security, economic and social benchmarks that the Iraqi Government was expected to implement.  But, to make a difference on the ground they would have to form part of, and contribute to, an effective political reconciliation process in Iraq.  A concerted effort in support of reconciliation in Iraq by its neighbours and the international community would also be required.  The Council was uniquely placed to support such efforts.

The hope implicit in resolution 1546 that the achievements of specific political benchmarks within specific timelines would enable Iraq to progress towards genuine national reconciliation had not been realized, he said.  Contentious issues had been discussed in several forums, including the informal Political Committee for National Security, the Cabinet, the Council of Representatives and the Constitutional Review process.  However, the impact of bitter memories, fresh grievances, perceived discrimination, increasingly entrenched identity politics, mutual mistrust and intolerance and, above all, the horrific and unending killings, had brought about an environment in which constructive and productive discussions leading to lasting reconciliation appeared to be very difficult.  “Achieving benchmarks was not the same as reaching milestones,” he said.

He said the international community could not allow itself to become a spectator to the unfolding crisis in Iraq, if only because of the unconscionable human cost involved.  The international community not only had a vital security stake in the stability of Iraq, it also had an inescapable moral obligation to encourage and enable Iraq’s Government in building inclusive and cumulative processes that could bring about stability.  While the Government was the first to acknowledge that primary responsibility for rescuing the country fell upon itself, it was also the case that the magnitude and number of challenges confronting the Government entitled it to call upon the international community for the necessary assistance.  The International Compact and structures established by regional meetings provided a potentially solid framework for vital cooperation.

Iraq’s leaders supported a fair distribution of power, equitable sharing of national resources and wealth, democracy and the rule of law, he said.  In practice, however, it was often difficult to strike a mutually acceptable balance between competing claims on basic issues.  That balance could only be struck if democratic politics was seen as more than just a competition between majority and minority rights, and more than a power struggle between political communities.  That was especially the case in countries, like Iraq, which were undergoing a comprehensive transition process that involved nation-building.  In such situations, fundamental questions relating to the country’s future had to be answered by more than rhetoric and general statements of principle.  Answers needed to be given in the shape of agreed and specific policy measures that, by addressing the priorities of the besieged Iraqi people, progressively transformed despair into hope.  If the levels of despair and hope among the Iraqi people had worsened, or remained essentially unaltered, it was time for the leaders of Iraq, the international community and the United Nations to consider how to enable Iraq to move forward on a more assured basis.

The Constitutional Review process was itself the result of the assessment by Iraq’s political leadership that further reflection on key constitutional issues was required, he said.  While the United Nations had been privileged to assist with a range of technical advice that laid out options for tackling most of the contentious issues, the key decisions remained political.  For those decisions to serve the national interests of Iraq, they needed to be made by democratically elected Iraqi representatives and leaders in a way that strengthened a sense of popular participation and national unity.  Fortunately, the choices before the Iraqi people were not black or white or zero-sum.  There was a whole range of grey areas of compromise, which could accommodate the essential concerns of all participants in the political process.

The constitutional support team had been doing just that, and such assistance could be extended to other areas where mutual understanding, accommodation and compromise were essential to progress, he said.  The political leaders could be persuaded that they were not always faced with zero-sum choices on basic issues.  Once that was appreciated, the constitutional review process, along with several other processes, could be extremely effective vehicles for reconciliation, while simultaneously closing off space for the perpetrators of violence and political extremism.

Few Iraqi families had been spared the scourge of violence and human rights violations, he said.  It was natural that many of them had a deep sense of victimization.  Justice, which was another essential pillar for reconciliation, required that the actual victims be assisted and compensated for their loss.  A variety of initiatives were now underway to alleviate the plight of externally displayed Iraqis by Iraq’s Government, host governments, especially Syria and Jordan, and the international community through the efforts of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other relief agencies.  However, a much broader internal initiative supported by the international community would be needed to address the plight of internally displaced people, and of the Iraqi people in general.  The Iraqi people needed to see tangible, sustained and effective measures to improve the conditions of their daily lives and to build their confidence in the political process, and their own future.

The Secretary-General’s latest report once again expressed serious concern about the human rights situation in Iraq, he said.  All of the institutions of law and order in Iraq faced very severe challenges.  Criminals and extremists of all stripes who used violence and vengeance against innocent civilians for their aims had already displayed their callous contempt for all norms of civilized behaviour.  Iraq’s Government had a particular responsibility to bring to justice the perpetrators of such acts, while strengthening the institutions that promoted the rule of law, particularly the security forces and the judiciary.  Accordingly, he urged the Government and others to work closely with United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on how best to achieve that goal, with a view to realizing an early improvement in the human rights situation.  That effort would also strengthen the political reconciliation process.

“There is an urgency about the situation in Iraq that the international community needs to take note of and respond to,” he said.  If the political and security situation in Iraq was not improved over the coming months, there was a danger that its several crises might escalate even further.  The United Nations, with the support of the Council and Iraq’s Government, had the potential to effectively assist and develop national dialogue and reconciliation processes, regional cooperation on Iraq and international support.  In reviewing UNAMI’s mandate, the Council might wish to consider how best to harness that potential in the service of the Iraqi Government and people.

Statements

ZALMAY KHALILZAD ( United States), speaking on behalf of the Multinational Force, said that it was clear that the Iraqi Government confronted significant security challenges as it strived to promote stability and consolidate Iraq’s young democracy.  Success would depend not only on progress in the security sector, where the Multinational Force played an important supporting role, but also on advances in the economic field and, most importantly, movement in the political arena.  He welcomed the efforts expanded over the last three months, while noting that much remained to be done.

In the political arena, progress on national reconciliation was essential to ensure that security efforts under way resulted in long-term stability in the country and the region, he continued.  He welcomed the efforts by Iraqi leaders to that end.  For example, the Constitutional Review Committee continued its work to address outstanding constitutional matters.  Last month, the Committee had announced it had prepared a draft plan to reform the Constitution.  Its work would provide a solid foundation for a strong Iraqi nation, and he looked forward to its sustained efforts on that fundamental matter.  He also welcomed the selection of the new commissioners to the Independent High Election Commission, and the work to prepare for provincial elections.  Additional legislation was being formulated to outline the powers of provincial councils and their relation to national institutions.  Welcoming the efforts of the newly created disarmament, demobilization and reintegration committee, he said that his delegation looked forward to the achievement of other benchmarks on reconciliation, such as passage of a law to reform de-Baathification processes.

Turning to the economic front, he welcomed the launch of the International Compact with Iraq on 3 May, saying that the emphasis now was on implementing the economic initiatives to which the Government of Iraq had committed.  The international community’s support for Iraq would be important for the Compact’s success, and cooperation between Iraq and the United Nations was key to the success of that initiative.  Further advances in Iraq’s economic reform, however, would require passage of legislation on the hydrocarbons sector, with regulations governing oil revenue sharing.   Iraq must also press ahead with its efforts to improve budget execution, particularly for reconstruction projects and service delivery.

Regarding security, he said that insurgents, militias, terrorists and criminals continued their destabilizing actions.  He strongly condemned this morning’s vicious attack on the holy Shrines in Samarra, which represented another deliberate attempt by Al-Qaida to sow dissent and inflame sectarian strife among the people of Iraq.  He called on all Iraqis to reject that provocation.

He said most of the attacks had occurred in Baghdad, Al-Anbar, Salah ad Din and Diyala provinces, and the majority of the victims were Iraqi civilians.  He regretted the suffering of the Iraqi people and the many innocent lives lost.  Those seeking to undermine Iraq continued to use a variety of methods to kill and maim, as witnessed in the use of lethal vehicle-borne improvised explosive bombings in the Baghdad area in April.  The same month, a suicide bomber had blown himself up in the Iraqi Council of Representatives building, killing one member and wounding several other people.  In a demonstration of its resolve to stand up to terrorists, the Council had met the following day, and he applauded that courageous act.

Operation Fardh al-Qanun (Imposing the Law) continued work to improve security in the Baghdad area and was now entering its fifth month, he said.  Although it was still too early to project results, there had been signs of a significant shift in the distribution of violence.  While attacks against coalition forces and high-profile terrorist attacks were still frequent, attacks against civilians and sectarian murders in Baghdad had decreased from the levels seen in January.  There was also a significant increase in the number of weapons caches found.  Iraqi and Multinational Forces continued to establish joint security stations and combat outposts in the city and surrounding areas.  The performance of Iraqi Security Forces was critical to the success of those efforts.

Among other developments, he said that opposition to Al-Qaida in Al-Anbar province was growing, aided by combined operations in Ramadi with Iraqi Security and Multinational Forces that included the establishment of Iraqi police stations and joint security stations throughout the city of Ramadi. Iraqi forces were recruiting in greater numbers in Al-Anbar province, demonstrating the determination of the people to participate in the fight against insurgents and Al-Qaida.  There was considerable interest and activity in other provinces to extend the success of popular resistance to Al-Qaida.  Iraqi Security Forces were undertaking a greater role, taking the lead in raids and other operations.  In May, the Iraqi Special Operations Force Brigade alone had conducted over 48 special operations.  The Iraqi Security Forces had now assumed the security lead in seven provinces.

In the region, the Government of Iraq continued its outreach efforts in support of national reconciliation, development and stability, he continued. On 4 May, the Egyptian Government had hosted an expanded neighbours meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh to facilitate regional dialogue and support for Iraqi efforts to rebuild the country.  Follow-up, particularly by the working groups established at the meeting, was needed to continue the momentum begun by that initiative.  The Iraqi Government also continued its bilateral outreach to its neighbours.  He welcomed Turkey’s offer to host the next expanded neighbours meeting later this year.  Securing Iraq’s borders was vital, and that would require the goodwill and effort of Iraq’s neighbours.

Not all the country’s neighbours had been helpful, however, he said.  Certain countries continued to support violent extremists who sought to undermine Iraq’s political progress.  The flow of foreign terrorists and weapons into Iraq was particularly destabilizing.  He called upon Member States to repudiate that behaviour and endorse Prime Minister Maliki’s repeated requests for an end to foreign interference in Iraq’s political process.  The role of UNAMI remained important.  United Nations’ specialized assistance would be critical to Iraq’s long-term development and stability.  He looked forward to upcoming discussions on how to revise UNAMI’s mandate to encourage a robust presence to assist Iraq.

He welcomed the contributions made in support of the United Nations security efforts in Iraq, he said.   Georgia, the Republic of Korea and Romania had provided security forces for UNAMI that had been essential to the Organization’s operations in Iraq.   Fiji continued to provide United Nations guard protection.  Sustained international support for the United Nations in Iraq, including through contributions to the fund for security expenses, as well as the provision of forces for United Nations security, would enable the United Nations to remain focused on its core assistance in Iraq.

In conclusion, he said that the international community shared a common interest in ensuring the success of Iraqi efforts to create a peaceful, stable and prosperous country.  That was important not only to the peoples of Iraq, but for the region and all States with ties to the Middle East.

HOSHYAR ZEBARI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, said that, last month, his country had observed the first anniversary of the formation of the constitutionally elected Government that was accountable to the 275 men and women of the Council of Representatives, the first democratically elected body in Iraq’s history.  The formation of that national unity Government that was broadly representative of, and governed by, the consent of Iraq’s diverse society, marked the completion of the political process set out in Council resolution 1546, and consolidated Iraq’s commitment towards the process of democratization.

He said that the past 12 months had been a test of the commitment and courage of the Iraqi Government and people as together they had brokered a difficult, often painful, transition towards a stable and peaceful democracy.  “Despite remarkable progress, a complex political, security and economic environment continued to present formidable challenges to the elected leaders tasked with the normalization of our country,” he said, stressing that there was no more definitive example of that threat than today’s bombings, which had destroyed the site of the holy Askari shrine in Samarra.

“This shrine -- sacred to both Shia and Sunni and revered by all Iraqis regardless of religion -- was of no military value whatever,” he said, and added:  “It’s destruction in today’s attack -- the second on that shrine in 16 months – was meant symbolically as a message from terrorists that they are seeking to destroy the fabric of Iraqi society.”  The attack was also an attempt to destroy inter-religious harmony, as well as the traditions of tolerance and fraternity within each of Iraq’s various religious traditions.  “We, Iraqis, standing as a Government and as a people, utterly reject these obvious attempts to divide us in the hope of sowing the seeds for civil war,” he declared.

Notwithstanding such senseless acts of violence, the Government had nonetheless made “tremendous strides” toward the day when security would be provided by a self-sufficient Iraqi national security force.  That was the ultimate objective, and while Iraqis would always be grateful for their liberation from an absolute despot, “no Iraqi Government official -- indeed no Iraqi citizen -- wanted the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi soil a day longer than is vitally necessary,” he said.  But for today, and at least for the next foreseeable months, the presence of Multinational Force troops was vitally necessary, not only for Iraq, but also to safeguard regional security and stability.

“The situation in Iraq is difficult and challenging at the moment,” he said, telling the Council that, while the Iraqi people were eagerly strengthening their nascent democracy and rebuilding their State institutions, they continued to be targeted by a “well-funded and organized campaign to destroy democracy in our part of the world”.  As Iraqis had demonstrated their determination to go forward in rebuilding their country, that campaign had become increasingly more vicious.  Aside from today’s heinous attack, he said that, in recent weeks, for example, terrorists had destroyed bridges, seeking to sever the physical ties that linked Iraqis together.

“Although many of the perpetrators of violence are indiscriminate on terms of their victims, their continued wilful targeting of political, civil, educational, economic, and -- as we saw today -- religious institutions, is no less an attack on the modern and historic culture of Iraq,” he said, noting that the perpetrators continued to attack police and Army recruits as was often reported in the media, even as the numbers of those recruits continued to rise.

“Thus the terrorists have failed to achieve their strategic goal of preventing large numbers of volunteers in the rebuilding of the country,” he said, adding that the Government had succeeded in recruiting nearly 350,000 men to the Armed Forces and security services.  It was also making progress in training and equipping those troops, looking forward to the day when they would be able to secure the peace of the nation without the presence of foreign troops.

He went on to say that the role of the Multinational Force continued to be vitally important in that it provided additional strength of arms whenever the need exceeded the capacity of Iraq’s armed and security forces.  The Multinational Force was also undertaking the training of the Iraqi Armed forces and the people of Iraq were deeply grateful for their continued efforts and sacrifice, he added.  Still, the Government recognized the need to accelerate the build-up of an Iraqi force that was self-sustaining, held public confidence and was loyal to the Iraqi national agenda.  “The Iraqi Government is the sole authority to control the streets and we are strengthening our stance against illegal militias and corruption within our national security, Army and police,” he said.

He said that Iraqi forces continued to assume their responsibility for providing security to the people as their size, experience and capacity increased.  In September last year, the Government had assumed operational command and control of ground, naval and air forces.  Further, security responsibility for seven governorates had been transferred to the Iraqi authorities and the Government looked to increase the number of governorates under its control, towards the day when it had full authority of all 18.

He said that encouraging progress was being made to restore law and order in Baghdad and, to that end, the number of sectarian-motivated murders -- a phenomenon new to Iraq -- had been greatly reduced since last winter when the programme had begun.  Moreover, preliminary reports indicated that some of those that had been internally displaced from the homes in Baghdad were slowly beginning to return, and the Government was beginning to curb the “worrisome occurrences” of militias attempting to ethnically cleanse neighbourhoods inside the capital.  “Apart from the statistics, we see evidence of normalization:  businesses reopening, increased traffic and more everyday signs of life on the streets,” he said, and added that, while it was perhaps too early to declare success, those were not small developments.

“Of course it is essential that we ensure that those who have terrorized Baghdad’s population should not find refuge in the surrounding areas,” he continued, reporting that tribal chiefs and ordinary citizens in Anbar and Diyala -- the most restive of Iraq’s provinces and far too long a haven for Al-Qaida terrorists -- had shown signs of taking arms against those terrorists.  At the same time, the Government was aware that, in addition to military strategies, it must employ other options to restore stability.

“National reconciliation is also a top priority with which we are contending,” he said, stressing that the Government was working on a draft law to reverse “overly aggressive de-Baathification”.  Further, as part of national dialogue and reconciliation, the Government was also reviewing and revising the Constitution with an eye to completing the process within the month.  At the same time, it was working on a hydrocarbon law, as well as a law on distribution of Iraq’s assets in a way that fairly ensured development throughout the country, he said.

Turning to Iraq’s regional activities, he told the Council that, among others, the Government had held this past March an expanded meeting of senior experts from neighbouring countries, along with the permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations and other key international organizations.  That had paved the way for a larger meeting last month in Sharm el-Sheikh, which had led to the creation of three technical committees dealing with problems besetting Iraq and affecting its neighbours, including security, temporarily displaced persons, and energy supplies.

Finally, he noted that UNAMI’s mandate had centred around Iraq’s political process and with that process essentially completed, the mission’s role must evolve in order to better address current and future needs, including the implementation of the International Compact.  While mindful that the situation had changed and the relationship between UNAMI and the Government must also change to reflect reality, the Iraqi Government’s vision for UNAMI was one in which the mission’s role responded to the needs expressed by the Iraqi leadership.  He also expected UNAMI to expand its role to include a greater presence, and to facilitate the work of United Nations agencies, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and others.

LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said the ongoing political, sectarian and criminal violence required the international community’s attention.  He endorsed the call for strong political support for the people and Government of Iraq.  He also welcomed today’s debate as an expression of solidarity with the people and Government of Iraq.  He was encouraged by the approval by the Council of Representatives on the candidatures of nine commissioners to serve on the Independent Commission, as well as the selection of new officers.  Such concrete steps were essential for building good governance in Iraq.  UNAMI’s assistance, coupled with its technical support, was highly commendable.

The conference on the Iraq Compact had demonstrated the increasing role that Iraq’s neighbours wished to play in bringing the crisis to an end, he continued.  He hoped countries would follow through on the commitments made at the conference.  It was also his hope that the momentum generated by the conference would be maintained, in order to make a positive impact on Iraq.  He also commended the contributions of the various United Nations agencies in Iraq to ensure the coordination of the organization’s humanitarian work.  Given the concerns expressed, the measures to enhance the safety of UNAMI personnel should be sustained.  The Secretary-General’s proposal to construct a new building in Iraq required special attention.  Such measures would not only answer the need for safety, but would also facilitate the task of reaching out to all segments of the population.

Noting that the report on the human rights situation in Iraq was disturbing, he called on the Government to choose the path of national reconciliation and adhere to international law.  He also welcomed the decision of the Government to grant UNAMI access to Iraqi detention centres.

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX ( France) said that the situation on the ground remained a source of concern, first of all in terms of security.  Despite the measures taken, the picture was still gloomy, with many attacks taking place and the people of Iraq continued to pay a high price.  Thousands of people had been killed in recent weeks, and even the Parliament had been the target of an attack.  Also of concern was the humanitarian situation, with thousands Iraqis joining the number of internally displaced persons each month.

It was important to look for a collective solution, he continued.  A number of developments should be noted in that regard, including the adoption of draft legislation on hydrocarbons by the Government of Iraq, which dealt with the essential question of how to distribute the wealth of the country.  Also important was the work of the Constitutional Review Committee.  Of note on the regional level had been the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting, which had formed the foundation for strengthened regional cooperation on several issues.  On the international level, he highlighted the holding of the Conference on internally displaced persons -- organized by the High Commissioner for Refugees, and the launching of the International Compact with Iraq.  Now, it was important to build on the momentum of those events.

The key remained in Iraq and its national reconciliation process, he said.  That meant that all Iraqi officials must come to an agreement on important questions, first and foremost the issue of sharing power.  The countries of the region needed to play their roles in the stabilization of Iraq, as well.  The working groups established in Sharm el-Sheikh should develop specific proposals on cooperation.  The international community must support that momentum.  The United Nations also had a major role to play in stabilizing Iraq under difficult conditions.  It was necessary to consider the proposal for a broader role for the Organization, while fully respecting security requirements.

VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he shared the conclusions of the Secretary-General’s report.  The Sharm el-Sheikh meeting had confirmed that the international community was trying to assist in the prompt normalization of the situation in Iraq.  Without international assistance for the political process, the leaders of the different groups would not be able to overcome the inertia of mistrust.  The mediation of the United Nations, the League of Arab States and Iraq’s neighbours was needed.  In the final statement of the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting, priority had been given to achieving a settlement, including the need for Iraqi cooperation and intercommunity exchange of opinion.  The Russian Federation was very concerned about the new terrorist attacks on Samarra, including the further destruction of holy sites.  He sympathized with the believers hurt in the terrible act and called on the Iraqi people not to succumb to radicalism.  He also hoped that the provocation would not lead to a new round of cruel, inter-ethnic fighting.

The key to success for national dialogue was for all ethnic and political groups to be included in the political process, he said.  Such dialogue was needed for Iraq to maintain itself as a whole and sovereign State.  It was also necessary to identify when the Multinational Force, a serious irritant for many, would leave the country.  It was not necessarily a matter of publicizing a date, but for Iraqis to see the prospects for the full completion of its presence in the country.  One of the main results of the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting had been the establishment of a working group to coordinate the efforts of the interested parties on Iraq.  The Russian Federation would participate in developing and implementing any initiatives that would assist the Iraqi people in overcoming the current crisis.

ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) said that a stable, peaceful and prosperous Iraq was a key element of global and regional stability and a moral responsibility for the international community.   Italy had always been at the forefront in assisting Iraq in its efforts towards peace, stability and prosperity.  Since 2003, Italy had contributed over 270 million euros to international efforts in the civilian area and last January, had signed a bilateral agreement providing soft loans for up to 400 million euros.  It had also cancelled 2.4 billion euros in Iraqi debt and was co-chairing with the Iraqi Government the International Reconstruction Facility Fund for Iraq.  High-level officials from Italy had also taken part in the launch of the International Compact and the Expanded Ministerial Conference of Neighbouring Countries in Sharm el-Sheikh in May.  The momentum created by those meetings should not be wasted.  The reforms outlined by the International Compact and the follow-up to the Sharm el-Sheikh Conference, namely the creation of the working groups outlined in the Baghdad Conference of 10 March, should be implemented without delay and without subordinating them to the creation of new implementing tools.

International support was critical to the success of Iraqi stabilization, the keys of which ultimately lay in the hands of the Iraqi Government and people.  He shared the view that efforts to restore security were to be supported by political initiatives to enhance national reconciliation and promote unity among the Iraqi people.  The success of any security plan was possible only if adequately supported by national reconciliation, as well as measures having an immediate socio-economic impact.  Concrete measures were needed in that regard, including a review of the de-Baathification law, the provision of economic means to the members of the former Iraqi Army and Security Forces, and, when possible, reinsertion into the new Armed Forces of those not implicated in crimes of the past regime.

It was also important to disband the militias, create the national police, and, on a more general level, to develop a policy that would offer all components of society the advantages of the new democratic Iraq.  The process of constitutional revision was of great importance.  He was encouraged by the Secretary-General’s evaluation that “if some of the amendments currently being discussed are ultimately agreed to, they could go some way towards establishing the basis for the national Government to play a necessary coordinating role within the decentralized federal system envisaged by Iraq’s Constitution”.  He also expressed concern regarding the situation of internally displaced persons and Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries, welcoming the April conference on that issue.

Italy had been a strong supporter of the role of the United Nations in Iraq, he said.  Commending the outstanding work of UNAMI and the Special Representative, he said Italy was pleased that the Secretary-General had expressed his willingness to “consider an expanded role and presence in Iraq, where possible”.  An expanded United Nations role in Iraq could provide an important contribution in many fields.  In connection with the Secretary-General’s observation that contentious issues, such as the referendum on Kirkuk and other disputed areas, must be approached carefully, he said that he shared the Secretary-General’s opinion that solutions must be found through sustained national dialogue, the patient search for compromise, and within the framework of the Constitution.  Here, the United Nations, with the consent of all interested parties, could play an essential role.

JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER (Qatar) said that his Government had reiterate the need for respecting Iraq’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity; for the Iraqi people to regain control of their security and freedom; for the commitment to non-interference in Iraq’s internal affairs by any party; and for rejection of any attempts to entrench sectarianism and division and to undermine security and stability in the region.  It had also been keen on acting expeditiously to find and deal with the root causes of the Iraqi crisis, a source of special concern for all those concerned about Iraq and the wider region.

To extricate Iraq from its crisis, it was imperative that an inclusive, participatory and transparent political process was launched -- one that would fulfil the aspirations of all Iraq’s communities and integrate them into political life and institutions.  “It is also imperative that the abhorrent sectarianism be confronted,” he said, adding that the security situation must also be tackled, and necessary attention must be given to reconstruction, as well as the deepening humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.

He said that significant efforts had been made towards establishing stability and security in Iraq by the Iraqi Government, which launched the Baghdad Security Plan months ago.  The success of that effort, as well as those undertaken by the Multinational Force, had been limited in some cases and there were still obstacles hampering their full implementation.  Addressing the issue required making huge efforts to strengthen the national Security Forces and enable them to take control of efforts to end the violence.  He said that fast-tracking efforts to improve basic living conditions was also a priority the Iraqi Government must address, with the assistance of international partners, the United Nations system and other organizations.

To that end, the International Iraq Compact was a useful initiative aimed at strengthening the foundations of peace and resuming Iraq’s socio-economic and political growth for the next five years, he said.  He went on to stress the increasingly dire situation of Iraqi refugees and the impact on the region of the rising numbers of such displaced persons.  There needed to be an urgent solution, he said.  Finally, he said that, at this critical stage of the stability and reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the United Nations played an important role in such areas as constitutional support, electoral assistance, development, humanitarian assistance, human rights and the rule of law.  The world body and its agencies were capable of assuming a wider role, with clear guidance from the Security Council and the Iraqi Government.  The Secretary-General had expressed a willingness to consider such expansion, but it would be first essential to provide the necessary infrastructure and create conducive security conditions, he said.

PASCAL GAYAMA ( Congo) said the overall situation in Iraq continued to be a source of major concern for the country, the region and the international community.  The international community saw recurring acts of violence, including almost daily bomb attacks, kidnappings and hostage-taking.  It was difficult to estimate the price with regard to the damage to cultural and religious sites.  The perilous situation in Iraq had led to the exodus of many who had become displaced, creating a major humanitarian problem in the region.  Once again, it was necessary to condemn acts of violence, which aimed at nothing less than the country’s destruction.  Iraq’s civilian population witnessed death and destruction on a daily basis.  His delegation also felt impatient about the challenges facing Iraq, including national reconciliation, political power-sharing and equitable distribution of natural resources.  It was, however, mainly the responsibility of the political and religious leaders to find consensus solutions to the questions facing the country.

The international community’s ongoing support was important and he was aware of the essential role played by UNAMI to that end.  He also welcomed the Secretary-General’s leadership role.  The Secretary-General and the United Nations system overall must step up its efforts at coordination, to enable Iraq to be in a better position to implement future initiatives.  Particular attention should be given to the follow-up to the conclusions of the various meetings, as well as to the work of the various committees being asked to find domestic legislative solutions to such issues as provincial elections, amnesty and de-Baathification.  He hoped that the various initiatives would help to re-establish trust, which was an essential condition for peace and reconstruction in Iraq.

KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said that her Foreign Secretary today had condemned the attacks in Samarra and offered condolences to the Iraqi people and Government.  She urged Iraqi political leaders to redouble their efforts towards reconciliation.  The United Kingdom was taking part in the efforts to improve and maintain the security situation in Iraq through its military presence and development efforts.  Her country was working closely with the Government of Iraq and Iraq Security Forces to deliver security to the Iraqi people and intended to continue its progressive transfer of security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces.  The United Kingdom expected to hand the responsibility for security in the fourth province to the Iraqi forces in the second half of the year, if relevant conditions were met.

Continuing, she supported the launch of the International Compact with Iraq and the results of the Sharm el-Sheikh Conference.  Both those important events expressed the support of the international community for Iraq.  She also welcomed the formation of the Compact secretariat.  As emphasized in previous debates, the role of Iraq’s neighbours remained crucial.  That was also a point made by many speakers today.  It was necessary to ensure support for the working groups established in the follow-up to Sharm el-Sheikh.  The United Kingdom would also urge the Government to take advantage of the window of opportunity created by the Baghdad security plan in order to promote reconciliation.

Among other important developments, she mentioned the review of the Constitution, and emphasized the importance of an early agreement on legislation on the gas and oil sector to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth in the country.  Progress was needed on de-Baathification and elections to ensure participation of all sectors of society at the provincial level.  She encouraged the Government to be ambitious in its efforts and called on UNAMI and international agencies to play an increased role in the country.  She looked forward to the discussion on reviewing UNAMI’s mandate later in the year.

The United Kingdom remained concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq and the increasing number of refugees and displaced people, she said.  The response of the international community needed to be focused and coordinated.  Efforts should continue to put in place a strategic framework for humanitarian action.  The United Kingdom recognized and paid tribute to the Special Representative and his team operating in the face of the security difficulties in Iraq.  Her delegation supported expeditious construction of a new United Nations building in Baghdad, based on the provisions for special political missions.  She also welcomed the Secretary-General’s personal commitment, including his personal visit to Baghdad.

PETER BURIAN (Slovakia), commending the United Nations ongoing efforts in Iraq under difficult circumstances, said the Secretary-General’s personal visit to Iraq on 22 March was yet more proof of the continuing commitment to Iraq’s reconstruction and assistance.  The United Nations strong involvement in Iraq’s reconstruction and stabilization processes was instrumental.  In that regard, he was strongly encouraged by the Secretary-General’s recent considerations to expand the United Nations presence in Iraq, where possible.

Welcoming the official launch of the International Compact in Sharm el-Sheikh on 3 May, he commended the Iraqi Government for the ambitious commitments it had made in the Compact.  Their implementation would be central in developing cooperation between Iraq and all its international partners.  He also welcomed the Ministerial Conference of Iraq’s Neighbouring Countries on 4 May.  He hoped that the Conference would give rise to a long-term process of regional confidence-building through dialogue and cooperation.  It was important to maintain the built-up of momentum and seek further ways to strengthen mutual collaboration to address the ongoing challenges in Iraq.

Regional actors, mainly Iraq’s immediate neighbours, should play a more active role in promoting Iraq’s peace and stability, he said.  Their contribution to the success of Iraq’s stabilization remained instrumental.  Iraqi ownership of the process was fundamental.  In that regard, he welcomed progress in the constitutional review process, as well as the establishment of the Independent High Electoral Commission.  On the other hand, he regretted that progress had been delayed on some other vital legislation.  He also regretted that the level of violence, terrorist and sectarian attacks and general insecurity was still high.  He strongly condemned all such acts of violence, including today’s attack on one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam in Samarra.  It was also important that all possible efforts were undertaken to address the increasing humanitarian suffering of a large number of Iraqi refugees and displaced persons.

GINACARLO SOLER TORRIJOS ( Panama) expressed concern over the situation of the Iraqi population and the humanitarian situation in the country.  He was also concerned about those who were involved in the reconstruction of Iraq.  The parties to the conflict should stop endangering the lives of the people.  Noting that entire communities were trying to escape the violence, he said that new restrictions in neighbouring countries exacerbated the tragedy.  Those countries should put humanitarian needs above cold immigration considerations.  There were also reports regarding difficulties in access to food and drinking water.  Under those circumstances, it was imperative to coordinate a strategy that would not leave the country’s population adrift.

It was reassuring that the international community was making efforts to improve the situation in Iraq, he said.  Among other positive developments, he mentioned the International Compact with Iraq.  He supported UNAMI and Iraq’s Government in their efforts to achieve the goal of a peaceful and stable Iraq without foreign troops.  Towards that goal, national dialogue was needed.  In the words of an Iraqi poet, Salah al-Hamdani, it was still necessary to overcome, on each side, the barbed wire of words.  The Independent National Commission and the Committee for Constitutional Review would only be effective if their work was accompanied by a sincere desire to put an end to the impasse in Iraq.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said Iraq, like any other nation, had every right to live in peace and without fear.  His delegation was, therefore, very concerned over the continuing political, sectarian and criminal violence that deprived Iraqis of those rights.  The pause in sectarian conflict following the introduction of a security plan had been too brief and frivolous to seize the chance of peace.  Clashes among factions continued and hostilities occurred on almost a daily basis.  He welcomed the commitment of the Iraqi Government to security and stability as its highest priority, not only in Baghdad, but also in the rest of the country.  He stressed, however, the urgent need for the protection of civilians and strict observance of international human rights and humanitarian laws whenever security measures were enacted.

He added, however, that atrocities in Iraq, rooted in the complexities that the Iraqis continued to grapple with, could not be fully responded to by a security approach.  In his view, a soft-power approach that promoted inclusiveness and respect for human rights and fundamental freedom must also be sought.  In that regard, he supported the efforts by Iraq’s Government to engage leaders from across the political and religious spectrum to promote confidence-building through national dialogue and reconciliation.  He also underlined the preventive significance of national dialogue, and recognized the urgency of seeking reconciliation within the governing coalition.

The humanitarian consequences of the continuing violence in Iraq were a matter of great concern to his delegation, he said.  In that regard, he appreciated the role of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian actors in addressing the needs of Iraqi internally displaced persons and refugees, and commended the generosity of receiving countries.  Considering the magnitude of the challenges that Iraqis were now facing, support and assistance from countries in the region and the international community remained critical.  Only through their contribution could Iraq fulfil its enormous human and economic potential.  He continued to underline the importance of UNAMI in providing Iraq with constitutional support activities, electoral assistance, human rights promotion, reconstruction, and development and humanitarian assistance.

He also welcomed the Secretary-General’s intention to consider an expanded role and presence of the United Nations in Iraq.  Under the present circumstances, there were three possible ways to enhance the United Nations role in Iraq, namely the flexible presence of more United Nations institutions in the country; a greater institutional foothold at United Nations Headquarters; and stronger support of the United Nations for Iraq in various international processes.  Iraq was experiencing a major transformation, which, he added, could not be done hastily.

BONGIWE QWABE ( South Africa) expressed concern over the fact that the security situation in Iraq continued to deteriorate.  Any solution had to include an all-inclusive political process, national reconciliation and constructive dialogue with neighbouring States.  She welcomed the Compact and other efforts to ensure stability and economic reconstruction of Iraq.  The Conference of Iraq’s Neighbouring Countries in Sharm el-Sheikh on 4 May and a recent meeting between the United States and Iran in Baghdad were also welcome.

She went on to express concern over the reports that there were currently over 2.2 million Iraqi refugees abroad, and that up to 50,000 people leaving their homes each month.  Another point that needed to be addressed related to recent audits that indicated that, while many efforts were being made, the overall financial system of control was deficient in Iraq and that financial reform needed to be pursued further.  It was also reported that there was no overall system of controls over the country’s oil revenues and that basic administrative procedures were outdated and ineffective.  The Security Council had the responsibility to ensure that Iraq’s natural resources were used in a transparent manner for economic reconstruction and repair of the country’s infrastructure.  The Security Council should discuss the auditors’ findings without delay.

She added that, notwithstanding the events that had led to the current situation, the powers given to the Multinational Force should be exercised in conformity with Council decisions.  The security situation was complex and unpredictable and remained an impediment to the presence of the United Nations in Iraq.  The full potential of the Organization to assist the Iraqi people could only be realized when its personnel could operate in a secure environment.

VITALIANO GALLARDO ( Peru) said the circumstances continued to be critical in Iraq, as illustrated by the Secretary-General’s report.  Violence had intensified once again following an initial drop in acts of sectarian origin.  Peru rejected all such terrorist acts.  The agenda for reconciliation also seemed to have become bogged down.  The consequences of the conflict could be seen in dramatic data, including the more than 800,000 internally displaced persons and the fact that some 17 per cent of primary education students had left school.  All such factors cast a shadow over the country’s future.  Unfortunately, the seriousness of the situation had not led to a sustained mobilization towards dialogue.  The Iraqis and their neighbours must act with the greatest of caution and utmost diligence in such areas as constitutional reform, the distribution of oil income and the situation in Kirkuk.

The task of reconstruction in Iraq was a key issue for the Government, he added.  There had been much delay in that regard.  The Compact was an important reference point for international assistance.  Iraq’s oil riches required responsible and transparent treatment.  The distribution of oil revenue must be subject to negotiation.  Peru supported initiatives to establish trust between all members of society and encouraged the Government to act with determination to ensure security and protection for all its citizens.  He also expressed support for UNAMI, which should continue to function according to its mandate.

LI JUNHUA ( China) condemned the attack on the holy shrines in Iraq today and called on various factions to maintain unity and demonstrate restraint.  Following an unusual path, the people of Iraq had basically completed the political transition and were now entering a new phase of development, where unity, stability and development were essential elements.  It was important to achieve unity among ethnic and religious groups, facilitate dialogue and promote reconciliation on such sensitive issues as the country’s Constitution.  The Government should seek consensus that would satisfy all parties.  In that connection, he expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Constitutional Review Committee and welcomed the establishment of the Independent High Electoral Commission.

Noting that stability was the greatest prerequisite for resolving the situation in the country, he took note of the measures taken by the Government and Multinational Force to improve the security situation.  He hoped that the Government would be able to take more responsibility for security in the future.  That was what the Iraqi people had been awaiting.  The Government should also strive to achieve prompt progress in economic reconstruction and improve the lives of the people.  In that connection, he welcomed the launching of the International Compact with Iraq, which had considered measures to achieve reconstruction and reaffirmed international consensus on Iraq.

Unity and stability could not be achieved without the participation of the neighbouring States, he continued, welcoming the Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh on 4 May, as well as recent consultations between the United States and Iran.  The parties concerned should continue to seek a proper solution through dialogue and consultation in order to create an environment for settling the issue of Iraq.  As a long-standing friend of Iraq, China supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, as well as reconciliation through a political process and dialogue.  He welcomed the efforts to speed up the reconstruction of Iraq on the basis of the principles of equality and openness.   China intended to provide some 5 million yuan for assistance to Iraq and to cancel all Iraq’s debt.

Speaking in his national capacity, JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium), the Council’s President, stressed his country’s firm condemnation of today’s attacks -- actions which would foment more sectarian violence.  Belgium shared the Secretary-General’s concern about the danger of violence for Iraq’s fragile political process.  He noted, however, the international community’s greater awareness of the situation and the need for a clear improvement.  The crisis in Iraq affected everyone.  After being divided on the Iraqi issue, Iraq’s neighbours and the international community understood that no solution was possible without a sustained commitment on the part of Iraqi authorities.

The international community’s greater awareness had, in the last few months, resulted in a number of initiatives, in which Belgium had directly participated, he added.  The holding of various conferences had demonstrated the involvement of regional actors in supporting the reconciliation and reconstruction process.  The long-term success of such meetings depended on developing follow-up mechanisms.  The United Nations and the Secretary-General had played a key role in the different processes.  Mindful of the very unfavourable security situation in Iraq, it was crucial for the United Nations to play a crucial role.  He hoped to see an expansion of such efforts.  He also supported the ongoing presence of the Multinational Force.  The United Nations, the international community and Iraq’s neighbours could not, however, substitute for the responsibility of the Iraqi authorities themselves.  He also emphasized the need to strengthen the rule of law, in particular by establishing security forces loyal to the Government and independent from partisan allegiances.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. QAZI said that Iraq, of course, was at a critical point in its political process and was entitled to the support of the international community and its neighbours.  UNAMI stood ready -- even under challenging circumstances, and taking into account security concerns -- to meet the expectations of the people and Government of Iraq.  It had the capacity and intention to respond to any request from the Government and the international community, as expressed by the Security Council.

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*     The 5692nd Meeting was closed.

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