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UN: Security Council Urges Broad Iraqi Political Dialogue, Expanded International Aid

Anticipating intense political talks ahead, the UN Security Council has appealed to Iraqi leaders to involve all segments of society in their upcoming constitutional process. A senior UN official told the council that the January elections for a Transitional Assembly were legitimate but raised concern about the low participation of Sunni Arabs. Iraq's UN ambassador promised an inclusive political process for all Iraqis. He also stressed the need for global aid in repairing Iraq's "ruined" infrastructure.

United Nations, 17 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- In its first response to the Iraqi elections, the UN Security Council called for a rapid expansion of assistance to Iraqis to guide them through the next phase of their transition.

A Security Council statement urged UN support in drafting a national constitution within the next eight months. It also called for greater international help for Iraq's reconstruction and stability.

The council praised the conduct of Iraq's national elections on 30 January. But, in light of the low turnout of Sunni Arab voters and ongoing violence, it urged Iraqi transitional leaders to promote a broad political dialogue.

Council President Joel Adechi, reading the statement, also addressed Iraqi insurgents.

"[The UN Security Council] calls on those who use violence in an attempt to subvert the political process to lay down their arms and participate in the political process," Adechi said. "It encourages the Iraqi authorities to engage with all those who renounce violence and to create a political atmosphere conducive to national reconciliation and political competition through peaceful means."

A largely Shi'a political bloc and a Kurdish bloc were the biggest winners in the elections. Sunni Arab or secular Iraqi nationalists would appear to have a limited presence in the new National Assembly.

UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast told the Security Council that Iraqi leaders must bring together all constituencies in a national effort to create a constitution.
"Iraq's infrastructure is in ruins and will need enormous efforts to be repaired." -- Samir al-Sumaydi'i, Iraq's UN ambassador

He noted that an extra challenge to achieving a sustainable political process is an Iraqi law that allows two-thirds of the population of any three governorates to block the adoption of a new constitution.

"This implies a realization by Iraqis that failure to engage in national dialogue and reconciliation could bring strife far more damaging than the compromises either side would have to make under an agreed peace," he said.

Prendergast pledged continued UN assistance to Iraq's political transition. This is particularly important in drafting the constitution, an area where the United Nations has wide expertise and can play a role in consensus building.

The UN currently has a staff of 50 in Baghdad, as well as five experts in Al-Basrah and three in Irbil. Security concerns have continued to limit the deployment of international staff to Iraq.

Iraq's UN ambassador, Samir al-Sumaydi'i, promised that the process of writing the Iraqi constitution would be inclusive. It would reflect what he called "Iraq's rich mixture of cultures and beliefs."

Al-Sumaydi'i also directed the council's attention to Iraq's struggle to revive its economy and the need for international assistance.

"Iraq's infrastructure is in ruins and will need enormous efforts to be repaired," he said. "It is essential that we provide the basic services and employment opportunities that will make life more tolerable for its citizens, thereby helping to bring social stability. This will largely depend on reviving and priming the Iraqi economy."

A slowdown in reconstruction of Iraq has been one of the results of the ongoing insurgency. The U.S.-led coalition in the country has trained tens of thousands of Iraqi security personnel and plans to have 200,000 Iraqi personnel equipped in time for the referendum on a new constitution.

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