UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Iraq's security has improved significantly over the last year, but the threat posed by militant groups eager to provoke sectarian violence remains serious, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report published on June 8.
In his latest report to the UN Security Council, Ban said the Iraqi government had indicated it was ready to take over from the U.S.-led forces, which plan to leave the country by the end of next year.
"However, armed opposition groups, Al-Qaeda and other extremist elements continue to demonstrate the intent and capability to conduct major attacks against government officials, security forces and the local population," Ban said.
"Although there has been a demonstrable reduction in insurgent activity across the country in the past 12 months, there are still armed groups determined to incite sectarian violence and undermine public confidence in the government's capability to provide effective security."
The Security Council is expected to discuss Ban's report later this month.
Ban also said funding for Iraq's humanitarian needs remained a challenge.
Just over 40 percent of a humanitarian appeal for $355 million for Iraqis refugees abroad and $192 million for the most vulnerable Iraqis still in the country has been received from donors, he said.
The report also said "violence against women remained one of the key unaddressed problems throughout Iraq."
"Honor-related killings and other forms of violence against women continued to be reported as accidents, attempts at suicide or suicide," Ban said.
The semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan has generally been stable, though Ban said "in the disputed city of Kirkuk and the surrounding areas, there have been persistent low-level attacks against Iraqi and (U.S.) military forces by local armed groups."
Continued progress on the political, social, and security fronts was needed, Ban said, to ensure that the gains made so far can be sustained.
"National reconciliation remains the main priority in Iraq," he said.
Key issues that need to be resolved, Ban said, include "federalism, the sharing of natural resources and disputed internal boundaries."
"Further progress on these complex issues will be possible only if Iraqi leaders come together in a spirit of national unity and adopt much needed constitutional and legislative measures in the political, electoral, economic and social fields," he said.
He added that the "delivery of essential services" was also critical to improving the lives of the Iraqi people.