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With crucial elections ahead, UN must commit to Iraq for the long term - top official

16 November 2009 – With upcoming Iraqi elections marking a crucial step on the road to stability, the United Nations must redouble its long-term commitment to a country that is still threatened by both insurgents and potential conflict between the central government and the Kurdish region, the top UN official for Iraq warned today.

“Success is far from guaranteed as inside and outside forces continue their efforts to impose an agenda of division and destruction,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Ad Melkert told the Security Council. “Opposed to this stands the will of the people to participate in the design of the future and to democratically mandate its leaders. This is the true significance of the historic elections ahead.

“And this must motivate the United Nations to mobilize all possible support for this process and progress, for Iraqis are receptive and eager to incorporate the values of the UN Charter in the building of a new state and a new society,” he added, stressing the utmost importance of the Council’s enabling the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) to live up to the expectations.

“This will have to be a commitment over a long period of time. There will be no shortcuts. Change needs rooting. Change is underway in many aspects. For the rooting, however, these are still early days.”

In a presidential statement read by Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria, which holds the monthly presidency for November, the Council reaffirmed “its full support” for UNAMI in helping Iraq to strengthen democratic institutions, develop a just and fair solution for the disputed internal boundaries, and hold the elections.

Mr. Melkert stressed that soon after election day, scheduled for 18 January, the serious issues of internal boundaries between the federal government and Iraqi Kurdistan, and revenue sharing, including oil extraction, must be addressed. Without resolving these key issues “the new Iraq will be permanently at risk of being pulled back or dragged into fundamentally destabilizing conflict,” he warned.

The Special Representative was presenting Mr. Ban’s latest report on Iraq to the 15-member body, with its call to the international community to help the country to deliver basic services in critically under-funded social sectors to ensure stability. He noted the continued violence, including the two massive and deadly attacks on Government buildings in August and October.

“Whilst still frequently the face of daily life shows the ugly sides of death and threat, the soul of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis vibrates in reaching towards the prospect of a safe and fair society,” he said.

“In the foreseeable future Iraq will continue to face big challenges and contradictions. More than before it will depend on the determination of constructive forces from the inside and outside to seize new and real opportunities,” he concluded. “From many Iraqis the determination to advance is there. For neighbouring and partner countries and for the Security Council to back this up unambiguously is the signal those Iraqis need and deserve.”

Asked at a later press conference about reports of Iranian arms supplies to insurgents in Iraq and interference in the internal affairs of the country, Mr. Melkert replied: “There is reason for concern generally about the interaction between different neighbours of Iraq with Iraq, as the Iraqi Government itself stated… [But] UNAMI is not in a position to specify.”

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