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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Security Council calls on new Iraqi assembly to include Sunni Arabs in transition

16 February 2005 ? Fresh from a briefing by the top United Nations political officer on the need to include Iraq's Sunnis, who stayed away from recent elections, in writing a new constitution, the Security Council today called for inclusiveness and transparency in the war-torn country's next transitional phases and pledged the world body's full support.

"The Security Council urges the UN to prepare itself rapidly and encourages the members of the international community to provide advisers and technical support to the UN to help it fulfil this role," the Council said in a statement, referring to its resolution 1546 entrusting the UN with helping promote national dialogue and consensus building on drafting a national constitution.

Before the Council's statement, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast noted the low election turnout, "for whatever reason," of Sunni Arabs, who form about 20 per cent of the country's population, and stressed the need for their inclusion, even though their representation in the newly elected National Assembly is small. "In accordance with its mandate, the UN stands ready to assist with this effort," he told the 15-member body.

In line with this, the Security Council strongly encouraged the Transitional Government, yet to be formed, and the Transitional National Assembly to reach out to all segments of society to make "the coming constitutional process as inclusive, participatory and transparent as possible."

In its statement, read by Ambassador Joel W. Adechi of Benin, which holds the 15-member body's rotating presidency this month, the Council praised the "historic" success of the poll despite difficult conditions and saluted "the bravery of the Iraqi people who demonstrated their commitment to democracy, defying the terrorists.

"The Security Council condemns, in the strongest possible terms, acts of terrorism in Iraq, which should not be allowed to disrupt Iraq's political and economic transition," it said, calling on those using violence to lay down their arms and participate in the political process, and urging the country's neighbours to help achieve security.

"The Security Council reaffirms its support for a federal, democratic, pluralist and unified Iraq, in which there is full respect for human rights," it added, noting the advisory and technical support the UN had given for the 30 January elections.

In his briefing Mr. Prendergast stressed the need for Iraqis to be able to go about their lives without fear of terrorism, violence and insecurity of all types. "The better and faster Iraqi security forces can be trained, the sooner they will be able to assume their responsibilities and fully take charge of the country's security," he said, also calling on the transitional authorities to find ways to improve daily living conditions by stepping up reconstruction, development and humanitarian activities.

"The challenges ahead are real, but so too are the opportunities," he concluded. "In fulfilment of its mandate, and circumstances permitting, the UN will spare no effort to meet the expectations of the Iraqi people through this critical period of their history."

In regard to the UN presence in Iraq, which was greatly reduced after a terrorist bombing in August 2003 killed 22 people, including top envoy Sergio de Mello, spokesman Fred Eckhard today confirmed that there was a small liaison detachment of security personnel and support staff outside Baghdad, consisting of five people in Basra in the south and three in Erbil in the north.

"They will be in contact with regional authorities as well as the [United States-led] Multi National Force commanders to provide security assessments for the UN. They will also facilitate eventual visits by UN substantive staff to the area," he added, noting that any further expansion, including substantive staff, would depend on the security situation as well as the availability of UN facilities.

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