Accessibility links

UN: Officials Call For Accelerating Iraqi Self-Government Process

  • Robert McMahon

Top United Nations officials are urging the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to set up clear guidelines for the restoration of a sovereign government in Iraq. They will address these concerns in reports to the UN Security Council today assessing life in Iraq under the occupying authority. A member of the newly formed Governing Council will also address the Security Council and may seek recognition for the group as Iraq's official UN representative.

United Nations, 22 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is pressing the U.S.-led coalition governing Iraq to accelerate plans to hand over power to Iraqis.

Annan says in a report to be discussed by the UN Security Council today that he welcomes the recent formation of the U.S.-backed Governing Council. He calls it broadly representative of the Iraqi population and says it can be engaged by the international community.

But Annan, quoted by spokesman Fred Eckhard yesterday, says Iraqis must also see a timetable for the return of full sovereignty. "The secretary-general says in his report there's a pressing need to set out a clear and specific sequence of events leading to the end of military occupation," Eckhard said.

Annan and his special representative in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, will brief the Security Council today. Comments from two of the three representatives of Iraq's Governing Council are expected to follow.

The members of the delegation are Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress; Akila al-Hashemi, a former diplomat and one of three women on the council; and Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister.

In separate comments to reporters yesterday, Annan expressed hope that the Security Council would give the new Iraqi group its backing. Broad recognition of the group could clear the way for support from countries which had opposed the war in Iraq and have not wanted to appear to be endorsing the coalition's occupation of the country.

The United States, facing continued resistance and mounting costs in Iraq, has been eager to enlist more international support. U.S. President George W. Bush underlined this again yesterday. "The more people [from different countries] involved in Iraq, the better off we will be, and that is exactly what our intention is, to encourage people to participate in making Iraq more secure and more free. A free Iraq is a crucial part of winning the war on terror," Bush said.

But Bush also repeated that Security Council Resolution 1483, which recognized the U.S.-led administration of Iraq, empowers countries to participate in coalition efforts.

France, Russia, and India are among the countries saying they could contribute to stabilization efforts in Iraq if there is a new resolution expanding the UN role there.

Bathsheba Crocker is an expert on postconflict reconstruction at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. She told RFE/RL that the appearance of Iraqi Governing Council representatives at the UN this week could provide a boost for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

"There is a real desire to have this council play an important role going forward, and it is an effort to really put an Iraqi face on the policy and other decisions that are going on in Iraq. And I think having the UN bless the council in some way would just formalize that process, which would probably be helpful," Crocker said.

Crocker was among five experts who contributed to a U.S.-commissioned report issued last week that called for the coalition to make urgent improvements in security, basic services, and political involvement for Iraqis. Among the report's recommendations was to establish a much broader coalition to carry out Iraq's reconstruction, including the United Nations and countries beyond the original war allies.

The UN secretary-general's report to the Security Council proposes a number of ways the UN can increase its humanitarian and development efforts under a new 300-person mission. Annan does not call for a UN peacekeeping role and he also recommends against establishing an international police force. But he says the UN can assist in the training and development of a civilian police force.

Crocker said more nations could contribute to such a project if it was cited in a new Security Council resolution. "If it is felt that it would be particularly good to have, say, the Jordanians, or other regional countries participating in that -- and they feel, again, that they need an explicit UN cover to participate in the civilian police force -- then that may very well be an area we should be focusing on in the resolution," she said.

Crocker's group was in Iraq from 27 June to 7 July. It visited 11 cities in nine of the country's governorates, meeting coalition officials, representatives of international organizations and a wide range of Iraqis.

She said the group was impressed by the dedication of coalition members and the enthusiasm and skill of Iraqis. But their central finding was that time is running out for substantive improvements to be made. "There is a definite enthusiasm for what is happening, but there's also a definite sense that there are growing levels of frustration for how slowly things are going on the public-safety front and from the perspective of restarting basic services. That was one of the reasons it is our sense that although we still have a window of opportunity here, it is a closing window," Crocker said.

The top recommendation of Crocker's group is that public safety be established in all parts of the country through a better deployment of forces. It calls for expanding Iraqi involvement in the rebuilding process at all levels and that people be put to work immediately on short-term, public-works projects and other basic tasks.