Thank you very much, Mr. President,
The Security Council is meeting today to hear a formal briefing from my Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, on the process leading to the announcement of the Iraqi Interim Government on 1 June 2004. I know that his assessment carries great weight with all of you. But before he addresses the Council, I wanted to say a few words.
Since the outbreak of the Iraq crisis, the role of the United Nations has been difficult, often dangerous, hedged about with constraints and controversy. In order to understand the role played over the last few weeks by my Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi and his team, and by Carina Perelli and hers, it is important to set their efforts in a wider and longer perspective.
It is no secret that the events leading up to the war on Iraq, and developments since then, have been amongst the most divisive that this Council has had to deal with since the end of the Cold War. For many around the world, what was at stake was the way in which the international order and our system of collective security were being defined at the beginning of a new Millennium.
Against that background of strongly held views on both sides of the argument, and sometimes bitter disagreement over the course of action that was chosen, it was inevitable that agreement on the role to be played by the United Nations in the aftermath of the war, especially in the political process, would also be elusive. Member States were able to agree that the Organization should play a “vital” or “central” role. But that role was never specifically defined. Moreover, the deadly attack on UN Headquarters in Baghdad greatly reduced our capacity to act inside Iraq, and I was insistent that there must be some symmetry between the risks the UN was asked to accept and the substance of the role we were being called upon to play.
I find it extremely poignant that Lakhdar Brahimi and his team left Baghdad last week on 2 June, one year to the day after Sergio Vieira de Mello and his team arrived in Baghdad, on 2 June 2003. We all remember, so vividly and painfully, the bombing of the UN Headquarters at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, on 19 August 2003, claiming the lives of some of our most talented and beloved staff, our wonderful friends, including Sergio himself, who was not only my Special Representative for Iraq but also the High Commissioner for Human Rights. That day brought to a virtual halt the United Nations' on-the-ground –I emphasize on-the-ground –involvement in the political process in Iraq. And it has remained clear since then that any UN role in Iraq, political or otherwise, would face serious security constraints.
You should know that Iraqis of all persuasions fondly remember Sergio and the role he played, repeatedly calling him a true friend of their country. Not surprisingly, with the example he set during such a brief period, Iraqis were sincerely hoping that appropriate security conditions could be established soon, so that the UN could quickly resume, on the ground, a meaningful role in the political process.
The temporary relocation of our international staff from the country did not mean, however, that the UN had disengaged from Iraq's political process. On the contrary, from here at UN Headquarters we intensified contacts with governments around the world. Iraq was a constant agenda item in virtually all my meetings with Heads of State and Government, and Foreign Ministers. The primary message I gave them was the need for the occupation to be brought to an end, as soon as possible, and for Iraqis to regain control of their sovereignty, political destiny, and natural resources. I therefore welcomed, as a critical first step, the setting of a date –30 June 2004 –for the end of the occupation and the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty, as prescribed in the Political Agreement reached between the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council on 15 November 2003.
Most Iraqis warmly welcomed the fact that a date had finally been set for the formation of a sovereign Iraqi government, even if many felt that it was still not soon enough. At the same time, prominent figures representing key constituencies in Iraq were threatening to reject the outcome of the caucus-style method prescribed in the 15 November Agreement for selecting that Government. It looked as if there was a real risk that the political transition process might collapse only a few weeks after it was to have entered a new phase. A political crisis was looming.
Against this backdrop, the President of the Iraqi Governing Council wrote to me at the end of December 2003. He asked the United Nations to answer two specific questions: whether elections were feasible by 30 June 2004; and if not, by what alternative means an Interim Government could be formed, to which sovereignty would be restored. At my invitation, a delegation of the Iraqi Governing Council, led by Mr. Adnan Pachachi, travelled to New York in January 2004, in order to reiterate and clarify this request in person. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, as well as Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Prime Minister Blair's Personal Representative to Iraq, joined them to express their support for the UN's re-engagement. Soon after that meeting at UN Headquarters in New York, on 19 January 2004, I responded positively to the request for assistance, having been given strong assurances that 1) there was a clear role for the UN to play; and 2), everything possible would be done to provide security for the UN personnel engaged in the effort. My position then and now has remained, as I have indicated, that whatever role the UN undertakes should be proportionate to the risks we ask our staff to assume.
It is within that context that I asked my Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, to play a role in the political transition process. I was conscious that, while much of the work was technical in form, it was intensely political in nature. This meant that in addition to a technical assessment from electoral experts, there was a need for skilful management of the complex political factors surrounding it.
I therefore asked Mr. Brahimi to visit Iraq from 6 to 13 February 2004, joined by a small political team and a group of electoral experts headed by Carina Perelli, Director of the Election Assistance Division in the Department of Political Affairs. During their trip, they met with hundreds of Iraqi groups and citizens, of all persuasions, from around the country, including prominent figures such as Grand Ayatollah Al Sistani. On 23 February, I presented the report of this Fact-Finding visit to the Security Council, with my full support for its observations and recommendations.
Thus began the process leading to the formation of the Interim Government as well as the preparation for elections to be held by January 2005.
I have asked Mr. Brahimi to recall for you the recommendations of the February fact-finding visit. For my part, I would like to state that the process which began on the basis of the Fact-Finding Team's report has been completed on time and in full.
The role of the United Nations, through the good offices of Mr. Brahimi, was to help facilitate a process of national dialogue and consensus-building among Iraqis, leading to the formation of an Iraqi Interim Government. Though they are not elected, we have in place a capable and reasonably balanced Interim Government, poised to take power by 30 June 2004. The United Nations was fully involved in facilitating consensus on its structure and composition.
This Interim Government will now have the task of bringing the country together, and of leading it effectively during the next seven months. The Iraqi people will judge it by its actions and results, particularly in helping to stem the violence that continues to plague the country.
Iraq is not a failed State. I am confident that, through the talent of its people and the natural resources it enjoys, Iraq will soon be able to resume its rightful place among the family of nations. I appeal to the Security Council and the international community at large, Iraq's neighbours in particular, to respond favourably and generously to the Interim Government's request for assistance and support.
Mr. Brahimi and his team have also helped forge consensus on a Chairman for the Committee that will prepare for a National Conference in early July. The Chairman is now in the process of finalizing the composition of the Committee, on the basis of recommendations he has received from the United Nations.
Finally, our electoral experts have worked diligently to help Iraqis lay the essential groundwork for elections. I am pleased to report that the establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq is complete, following a country-wide nomination process. Close to 2000 nominations were received from all 18 governorates. Seven Iraqi Commissioners and a National Electoral Director have been selected by the United Nations. Agreement has also been reached on the legislative framework needed for elections, including the electoral system; political parties and representation; and criteria for voter registration.
All of us know that security remains the primary obstacle and constraint. I hope that, through our combined efforts, we can help promote a political process with a credibility that has a positive impact on the overall security environment, and reverses the logic of violence on all sides.
I should like to seize this opportunity to pay special and heartfelt tribute to my Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, to Ms. Carina Perelli, and to each and every member of their respective teams, for working with such dedication to complete their mission, under exceptionally difficult and dangerous conditions. Their determination to help the people of Iraq is eloquent testimony to the idealism that continues to motivate so many of our staff around the world. I am grateful to the Iraqi and Coalition authorities for providing them with the necessary security during their stay in Iraq, both in Baghdad and on their travels inside the country.
The mission that has just been accomplished by Mr. Brahimi was a specific task that I had accepted at the request of both the CPA and the Governing Council. Also at their request, the UN is now engaged in supporting the preparation for the elections to be held by January 2005.
The resolution you are discussing, Mr. President, addresses, amongst other things, the future role of the United Nations in Iraq. Let me reaffirm our readiness to do our utmost –as circumstances permit –to contribute to the restoration of peace and stability in a unified, sovereign and democratic Iraq. To that end, we look forward to a clear definition of our role, and to the creation of all the conditions - including the provision of security for our staff, and adequate resources - which would allow us to implement the mandate given us, to the satisfaction of the people and to the satisfaction of this Council and the UN membership.
Thank you very much.