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Annan hails Iraqi accord to make constitution-drafting process more inclusive

16 June 2005 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the Iraqi agreement to expand the Constitution Drafting Committee to be more inclusive of the Sunni Arab community, long a goal of the world body's efforts to bring stability to the country after Sunni Arabs largely absented themselves from elections in January.

Calling it an "important agreement," Mr. Annan expressed his pleasure that his Special Representative for Iraq Ashraf Qazi and the Head of the Office of Constitutional Support of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Nicholas Haysom were able to help facilitate the accord expanding the committee by 15 new members and 10 experts.

Ever since the 30 January elections for the Transitional National Assembly, which will write the new constitution and organize fresh elections, Mr. Qazi has met almost daily with one sector or other in an effort ensure that all elements, particularly Sunni Arabs, participate in the country's political transition.

By not voting, either due to boycott calls, intimidation or fear of violence, Sunni Arabs, who represent about 20 per cent of the population and were the dominant political force in Saddam Hussein's ousted regime, now have very little presence in the Assembly. Shiite Arabs, about 60 per cent of the electorate, voted enthusiastically and now dominate the assembly together with the mainly Sunni Kurds, who also turned out en masse and represent about 20 per cent.

"The Secretary-General hopes that the people of Iraq will seize this historic opportunity to pursue a constitutional process that is responsive to the key demands of all Iraqi political constituencies and that every effort will be made to complete the drafting of the constitution in accordance with the agreed timetable," Mr. Annan said in a statement issued by his spokesman.

Under the timetable the draft constitution is to be completed by the summer and submitted to a referendum in the autumn, to be followed by new general elections by the end of the year.

"The United Nations will continue to do everything possible to support the constitution-making process and to facilitate Iraq's political transition in accordance with its mandate under Security Council resolution 1546," the statement added of its mandate to promote national dialogue and consensus within an all-inclusive political process.

"We have a strong team there, working with the Iraqi authorities on the drafting of the constitution," Mr. Annan told reporters earlier at UN Headquarters in New York. "They will be able to help facilitate discussions, perhaps suggest some drafts, and basically support their effort."

Presenting Mr. Annan latest report on Iraq to the Security Council today, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Türk stressed that the inclusion of all constituencies is vital for the success of the transition process.

"Our experience around the world demonstrates that national reconciliation requires a constructive relationship between the majority in power and political minorities," he told the 15-member body in an open briefing.

Meanwhile in Baghdad today, Mr. Qazi discussed the coordination of donor resources for the war-ravaged country with Finance Minister Ali Abdelamir Allawi and Planning and Development Cooperation Minister Barham Saleh ahead of a conference on international assistance in Brussels, Belgium, next week.

Mr. Türk said the International Conference on Iraq being co-hosted by the United States and the European Union (EU) in Brussels on 22 June, provides a new opportunity for the global community to widen and deepen consensus in support of Iraq's transition and the role of the UN.

"Both Iraq and the international community have no option but to succeed," he told the Council. "It behoves all concerned – the new Iraqi Government, the Multinational Force, this Council and the United Nations – to rise to our shared responsibility to ensure the full implementation of resolution 1546."

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