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Ban Ki-moon notes new level of international solidarity on Iraq crisis

11 June 2007 Several recent initiatives have displayed a new level of solidarity in tackling the impact of the crisis in Iraq, where the situation remains “precarious” amid continuing attacks on people, structures and the country’s political institutions, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report released today.

While Iraq’s “political and social fabric continued to come under considerable strain” as a result of ongoing violence, a host of recent initiatives has given rise to hopes of addressing the ongoing crisis, Mr. Ban states in his latest report on the activities of the activities of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which is carrying out a range of activities in the country, including human rights, constitutional, electoral, reconstruction, development and humanitarian assistance.

Among them, he cites the April conference in Geneva on displaced Iraqis as “an important first step in seeking collective solutions to a growing problem that is affecting the region as a whole.”

Organized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the conference focused on the plight of the nearly 4 million Iraqis who have fled their homes and ended with agreement on the urgent need to stem the outflow of people while assisting those in need, including by providing support to neighbouring countries which are sheltering refugees.

Similarly, Mr. Ban states, discussions at the May launch in Sharm el-Sheikh of the five-year peace and development plan known as the International Compact with Iraq, as well as subsequent meetings with Iraq’s neighbours, were notable for their “sober appreciation of the need to shore up the Government of Iraq’s reconciliation efforts by concerted international support.”

Those meetings, states the Secretary-General, demonstrated that the international community, while recognizing the complexities of the situation, is willing to work together in solidarity with Iraq.

Noting growing calls for a larger UN role in Iraq, the Secretary-General indicates he would consider an expanded role and presence in Iraq where possible. For the UN to play its role, he says several conditions are necessary, including adequate protection and security arrangements, air support and the construction of secure facilities.

Asked about the issue today by reporters at UN Headquarters, Mr. Ban saw the possibility of an expansion of the UN’s work. “Our mobility as well as presence have been largely dictated by the situation on the ground,” he said. “As we see the development of the situation, we will try to expand the role of political facilitation, constitutional review process, and there will be many areas where the United Nations can still contribute.”

The future role and structure of the UN in Iraq was also among the topics discussed today in a meeting in Amman between the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul Ilah Al-Khatib.

The two touched on recent developments in Iraq, as well as the role of neighbouring countries in brining peace and stability, following on the May ministerial meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh of Iraq’s neighbours. Both men also stressed the urgent need to create conditions for the safe return of displaced Iraqis.

Mr. Qazi will be in New York tomorrow to brief the Security Council on the latest developments in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has voiced grave concern over the “alarming increase” in the number of journalists murdered in Iraq in recent days.

“The only crime committed by these journalists is that they had the courage to exercise the basic human right of freedom of expression,” Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura stated, condemning the assassination of Aidan Abdallah Al-Jamiji, Mahmud Hassib Al-Kassab, Abdel-Rahman Al-Issawi, and Nizar Al-Radhi.

According to the Committee to Project Journalists, at least 104 journalists and 39 other media workers have been killed in Iraq over the past four years.

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