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All Iraqis must join political process to build on electoral momentum - UN report

10 March 2005 With far too many Iraqis, especially Sunni Arabs, having failed to take part in recent elections, which marked an important step in the political transition, it is vital that all sectors in the war-torn country be brought into next stage, including writing a new constitution, according to the latest United Nations report released today.

"It will be critical in the coming weeks to build upon the positive momentum generated by the elections," Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in the report to the Security Council, pledging full UN support in the constitution-making process.

"Failure to engage in a national dialogue and reconciliation could bring strife far more damaging that the compromises necessary for reaching a national consensus achieved through peaceful means," he warns.

"It will be important that the new Iraqi leadership signal clearly that all Iraqis will have the opportunity, and are encouraged, to participate fully in the process," he adds, stressing that his Special Representative in the country, Ashraf Qazi, has been meeting with all segments of society for this very purpose.

Mr. Annan notes that there are many ways in which the UN can provide specific help for the next phase of the transition, including the writing of a constitution, such as facilitating dialogue to maximize inclusiveness and consensus, providing technical aid, public information support and coordination of international assistance.

"The United Nations has accompanied the Iraqis at every step of their political transition so far. We are determined to continue to do everything possible to implement our mandate under Security Council resolution 1546 (2004), as circumstances permit," Mr. Annan writes of the world body's mandate to promote national dialogue and consensus and coordinate international aid to the country.

But he notes that political progress remains at the mercy of the "serious challenge" posed by continuing violence, adding: "I hope that Iraqis will seize the momentum gained from the elections to enable the political process to have a positive impact on the security situation."

The number of UN personnel continues to be constrained by security conditions "necessitating extremely well-protected living and working facilities within heavily-guarded areas," he writes, putting current UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) international staff at 64, with a 134-member strong guard unit from Fiji.

"Movement outside the Baghdad international zone, or similarly well-protected compounds in other parts of the country, continues to be extremely hazardous and therefore dependent on the protection of the multinational force," he adds.

But he also stresses that despite the fragile security environment, UNAMI, which has many local staff, has been able to continue reconstruction through implementing partners, including rehabilitating schools, water treatment and power plants, upgrading transmission systems and with housing projects, procurement and delivery of food, among a host of other activities.

"Priority must be given to addressing the basic needs of all Iraqis," he stresses. "Job creation, infrastructural improvements, institutional capacity-building and effective delivery of basic services are essential for making the political and security context more conducive to a successful transition process. Efforts in the area must therefore be intensified."

On human rights he notes that UNAMI continues to receive from a wide spectrum of sources consistent reports of excessive use of force against persons and property, as well as mass arrests by both the United States-led multinational force and Iraqi security forces.

"The UNAMI Human Rights Office continues to work with Iraqi institutions and civil society to address the legacy of both past and present challenges with a view to fostering national reconciliation," he adds.

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