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Iraqi Envoy Calls For Larger UN Election Mission

  • Robert McMahon --> United Nations, 13 December 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations appealed to the UN today to increase its personnel in Iraq, saying a shortfall of experts could hurt preparations for elections.

Ambassador Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaidaie used a Security Council briefing on Iraq today to criticize the limited UN deployment of expert staff. He said the UN's preferred way of engaging Iraqi officials seemed to be video conferencing or telephone calls from outside Iraq.

Speaking to reporters afterward, he said Iraq needs a much broader UN presence to be sure its elections scheduled for 30 January are legitimate.

"The more United Nations personnel we have, the more supervision we can get and the more assurance there will be that elections will be conducted properly," Sumaidaie said. "We want not only to do the elections properly but also to be seen to be done properly."

The ambassador acknowledged UN security concerns, but said it has withheld experts from deploying to relatively safe regions in the north and south of the country.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has limited the UN international deployment in Iraq to 59 people. His spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said Annan is insisting on safe conditions for UN staff after the August 2003 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad.

"We're looking very closely after the safety and security of our staff after the horrendous events of the bombing in Baghdad," Eckhard said.

The Security Council has called for the creation of a special UN protection force but few countries have committed to it. U.S. ambassador to the UN John Danforth urged states to donate forces and other resources to the force.

The UN envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, stressed repeatedly in his council briefing that an inclusive political process in Iraq was also essential to stabilizing the country.

"It is imperative that every effort be made to promote dialogue, compromise and reconciliation amongst all Iraqis in order to bring about a more secure environment," Qazi said. "Otherwise, there is a real danger that the political transition process will be impeded, rather than facilitated."

The voter registration process is said to be proceeding smoothly in most of the country. But there is concern that voting will not be possible in some Sunni Muslim areas hostile to the U.S.-led multinational forces and the Iraqi interim government.

UN officials have said the U.S.-led assault on the insurgent stronghold of Al-Fallujah could damage the political environment ahead of elections. But the Iraqi ambassador, Sumaidaie, defended the crackdown, saying insurgent leaders in Al-Fallujah were uninterested in dialogue.

For more on events in Iraq, see RFE/RL's dedicated The New Iraq webpage.