16 February 2005
United Nations Formally Endorses Conduct of Iraqi Elections
U.N. promises continued engagement in rebuilding the country
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
United Nations -- The United Nations has formally endorsed the conduct of the Iraqi elections January 30 and promised deeper engagement in the effort to rebuild the country on a democratic foundation.
The elections "met recognized standards in terms of election organization, regulations and procedures.Â The assessments of Iraqi and international observers indicate overall satisfaction with the conduct of the polls," said U.N. Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast, briefing the Security Council February 16.
Prendergast said the prime tasks facing the transitional assembly and government are suppressing terrorism and violence and stepping up reconstruction, development, and humanitarian activities.
Describing the elections as "a significant development in Iraq's transition to democratic government," he pointed out that Iraqis turned out in large numbers to vote, despite violent attempts at disruption.
After the briefing, the Security Council issued a formal statement affirming "its continuing support for the Iraqi people in their political transition and reaffirms the independence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Iraq."
In a statement read by the council's president, Joel Adechi of Benin, the council emphasized the importance of the maximum participation of all segments of Iraqi society in the political process.
The council stressed "the need for sustained political efforts aimed at making the next steps of the transition, in particular the coming constitutional process, as inclusive, participatory and transparent as possible."
The council urged the United Nations and the international community to prepare rapidly to provide advisers and technical support to help Iraq promote national dialogue and consensus in drafting the national constitution.
The Security Council "reaffirms its support for a federal, democratic, pluralist and unified Iraq, in which there is full respect for human rights," the statement said.
Prendergast noted that the elections were marred by the low turnout of Iraqi Sunni voters.Â He said the United Nations would be willing to help in the effort to integrate the Sunni community in the new Iraqi government.
"From our experience in Afghanistan and elsewhere, we have learned that the challenge in any political transition ultimately lies in achieving a sustainable process that leads to an outcome -- in this case a constitution and a legitimately elected parliament and government -- in which all Iraqis feel that they have a stake," Prendergast said.
Iraqi Ambassador Samir Shakir Sumaida'ie told the council that his country looks forward to continued support from the international community and the United Nations in the coming months.Â He asked that the United Nations increase its presence in the country.
The Iraqi envoy said that the challenges and difficulties facing the new government are enormous -- among them, rebuilding the Iraqi army and police, reconstruction, activating the economy, and repairing the country's infrastructure.
Speaking with journalists outside the council, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that with elections over, the United Nations has "indicated what things we can do with the Iraqi people and government to assist."
"We are, in fact, operating from across the border and implementing some projects," Annan said.Â "The time will come ... when we will be able to send in additional staff."
The United Nations currently has staff in the northern city of Erbil and is hoping to send staff to Baghdad and Basra in the south.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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