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UN Chief Says Iraqi Leaders Must Address 'Root Causes' Of Violence

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a news conference in Baghdad on January 13
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a news conference in Baghdad on January 13
BAGHDAD -- On a visit to Baghdad, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Iraqi leaders to address the "root causes" of the surge in deadly violence.

Speaking on January 13 after talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, Ban said Iraqi leaders should "ensure that no one is left behind."

He called for political cohesion," "social cohesion, and political dialogue, inclusive dialogue" while also expressing deep concern for the escalation of violence in the western Anbar Province.

Maliki, however, insisted that the Anbar unrest was not due to internal problems and ruled out dialogue with Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

During his two-day visit to Iraq, Ban is also due to meet with parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, lawmakers, Vice President Khudayr al-Khuzaie, and the head of Iraq's election commission.

The visit comes as Iraq is embroiled in a bloody standoff in Anbar between security forces and Sunni tribesmen on one side, and Al-Qaeda-linked militants and antigovernment tribes on the other.

Heavy violence started in the province after the December 28 arrest of a Sunni lawmaker on terrorism charges and the government's dismantling of a Sunni protest camp in the provincial capital, Ramadi.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports that fierce clashes are under way in Ramadi, with residents fleeing toward the city center.

Militants have retaken a central position in the Al-Adil District, with lots of fighting in the streets.

In nearby Fallujah, the headquarters of the local counterterrorism bureau was blown up, as was the home of the police chief, Colonel Muhammad al-Issawi, who was appointed to his post on January 12.

Fighting was also reported in the Baghdad-Fallujah-Samara triangle, where fighter jets bombed an insurgent hideout, killing seven gunmen.

In a joint statement on January 13, 24 local Sunni Arab tribal leaders called on all tribal leaders to leave behind past animosities and to work together.

In addition to that, they called on the Shi'ite tribal leaders from Iraq's southern provinces to withdraw their sons from the Iraqi Army, saying they are involved in fighting their own countrymen.

The Sunni Arab tribal leaders urged the United Nations Security Council, the United States, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Arab League to stop providing Maliki's government with weapons that they said are being used to kill civilians in Anbar.

They also called on human rights organizations, civil institutions, and the Red Crescent to provide aid to people in Anbar, particularly in Fallujah and Ramadi.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq
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