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Nearly all Iraqis seek greater UN role in political transition, Security Council told

11 April 2005 Virtually all sectors of Iraqi society want the United Nations to play a larger role as the country moves forward in its political transition to writing a new constitution and holding fresh elections, the Security Council was told today. But improved security is vital for any such expansion.

"Almost without exception, Iraqi interlocutors want the UN to assume greater responsibilities and a greater visibility in Iraq," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Ashraf Qazi told the 15-member body.

"The new transitional institutions in Iraq will need continued and active support from the United Nations, the region and the international community at large," he said, presenting Mr. Annan's latest report on the country in an open briefing.

"We will be assessing the scope for increased humanitarian and development initiatives, consistent as always with the security of UN staff," he added, voicing the hope that the arrival of new guard units for UN personnel will encourage other countries to support the expansion of UN activities "by practical as well as moral support."

As he has nearly every day since the 30 January elections, from which Sunni Arabs largely absented themselves, Mr. Qazi stressed the imperative for all sectors to take part in the transition, especially the task of writing a new constitution that falls to the newly elected National Assembly in which Sunni Arabs now have little representation.

But he noted that all major parties, including those who stayed away from the voting booths, have already engaged in intensive talks on the transition. "I hope that Iraqis will build upon this positive momentum as they move on. It is important that no community should feel alienated from the political process," he declared.

Echoing that theme, the Council President for April, Ambassador Wang Guangya of China, said members looked forward to continued progress in Iraq's political transition, and urged the Transitional National Assembly to proceed "without delay" on the constitutional process.

Council members "stress the need for this process to be as inclusive, participatory and transparent as possible," he said in a press statement after the briefing. "They encourage the Transitional National Assembly to reach out broadly to all segments of Iraqi society, with a view of promoting genuine political dialogue and national reconciliation and ensuring that all Iraqis have a voice in the drafting of the constitution."

Shiite Arabs, who voted enthusiastically, represent about 60 per cent of the population, while mainly Sunni Kurds, who also turned out en masse, and Sunni Arabs, the dominant political force in the regime of ousted Saddam Hussein, represent about 20 per cent each.

"Members of the international community can critically support Iraq's transition process by stepping up their reconstruction and development assistance both through the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq and bilaterally," Mr. Qazi said, reiterating UN readiness to help in writing the constitution, if requested, and to coordinate international aid.

"The road ahead presents both great opportunities and serious challenges," he added, stressing the need to eschew sectarian agendas or imposing majoritarian views.

On security, he noted that despite an apparent reduction in the number of violent incidents, the tactics and lethality of the insurgency continued to evolve and a credible political process offered the best prospect for improvement.

"The better and the faster Iraqi security forces can be trained, the sooner they will be able to assume their responsibilities and take charge of the country's security," he said.

In his report, released last month, Mr. Annan also stressed the vital need for all sectors to be brought into the next stages of the transition, including the writing of a new constitution.

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