Voicing grave concern at the recent bloodshed and deteriorating security situation in Iraq, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged stepped-up efforts to protect civilians and end the violence.
"The Secretary-General calls upon all those concerned to respect international law, particularly in regard to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and to intensify their efforts to end the current crisis," a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement released in New York.
All parties were urged to allow full access to civilians who may require urgent medical help and other assistance.
The statement also emphasized that "an inclusive dialogue and a patiently pursued political process involving all Iraqi constituencies are essential at this particularly sensitive phase on the road toward the restoration of sovereignty, stability and the rule of law."
Mr. Annan's Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, currently in Iraq with his team for consultations with a broad cross-section of Iraqis on the political transition set for 30 June, echoed the Secretary-General's call.
"On this day, we must mention, with great pain and extreme sorrow, the bloody events which we are witnessing in various parts of Iraq, and express condolences for the innocent lives which were lost, and call upon all parties to end this conflict, which does not serve anyone's interests," he told reporters before a meeting with civil society leaders in Baghdad this evening.
Mr. Brahimi said the UN looked forward to the restoration of sovereignty to Iraq as the first step to emerging from the dark tunnel, which the country entered a long time ago. He added that the UN was trying to contribute to the formation of a government that will take over power in Iraq on 1 July, thus ending at least some of the factors leading to the events of the last few days.
The UN envoy and his team held talks today with university professors, political party leaders and a wide range of Iraqi professionals.