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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

At world conference, Annan calls for broad burden-sharing in Iraq

22 June 2005 Opening an international conference on Iraq in Brussels today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the international community to share more broadly the burden of the reconstruction and stabilization of the war-torn country in a way that has a positive impact on the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

"[Iraqis] look to this conference for a clear sign that the international community will be their determined and dedicated companions on the tough road that they must walk to achieve a stable, peaceful, democratic Iraq," Mr. Annan told the one-day conference co-hosted by the European Union and the United States.

"By our words, and more importantly by our deeds, we must reassure them that we will not let them down," he added.

He said that the large and diverse Iraqi delegation had put a comprehensive vision of the future before the conference, and he praised the people of Iraq for their hard-won political progress. Iraq's newly elected authorities now bear the burden of leading their country successfully through the next steps of the transition, he stressed, including the important drafting of a new, inclusive constitution.

"Compromise and reconciliation are the way forward, not hatred and violence," he said. "Iraqis must find it within themselves to reach out to one another and address issues on which they may differ."

In addition to progress in the political realm, faster progress is needed in reconstruction, development and humanitarian assistance, the Secretary-General said. He expressed hope that the conference would enable Iraq's Government to avail itself fully of expertise and resources being offered from both inside and outside Iraq, and that next month's donor meeting in Amman would ensure that the resources would, indeed, be available.

In closing the conference this afternoon, Mr. Annan called the event a "watershed," as a sovereign elected Government of Iraq had presented its views to the international community, which, in turn committed itself to respond to those needs in its joint declaration. At the same time, he reaffirmed the UN's commitment to Iraq.

"While I remain mindful of the security situation in Iraq, I pledge today to the people of Iraq that the United Nations is determined to respond to their expectations and to accompany them all the way on their historic journey of transition," he said.

"We are proud of the contributions that we have made so far under extremely challenging conditions, which many of you have generously acknowledged. We in turn acknowledge that still more needs to be done as circumstances permit.

Earlier, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, told conference participants that the short time remaining before the August deadline for drafting that country's constitution represented a "critical phase" in its political transition.

Despite the limited time, he said, there is optimism that an inclusive public discussion, vital for a credible constitution-drafting process, will take place, ensuring acceptance of the draft in the 15 October referendum and allowing December elections to take place under the new constitution.

The support for these activities provided by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) is, he said, constrained by security concerns. "Nevertheless," Mr. Qazi continued, "the measure of UNAMI's success does not lie in numbers alone, but in the quality of its assistance."

In that context, he said, it was important to keep in mind that political progress, economic reconstruction, job creation, human rights and the rule of law were all interlinked, as the themes of the conference indicated.

During the course of the day-long conference, Secretary-General Annan met individually with world leaders and other key participants, including United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with whom he discussed UN reform and the situation in Uzbekistan among other issues, according to a UN spokeswoman.

Mr. Annan spoke with the Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, and the country's Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht, about the possibility of Belgian assistance in the constitutional drafting process, as well as UN reform and the current situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the spokeswoman said. With Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, he discussed the continuing dialogue on nuclear issues between Iran and the governments of Britain, France and Germany.

Other participants he met today included Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing; Arab League head Amr Moussa; British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw; Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zubari; and Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.

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