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UN envoy appeals for neighbours’ help to assure smooth transition in Iraq

UN envoy appeals for neighbours’ help to assure smooth transition in Iraq

Ross Mountain
With Iraq “in the midst of an exceptionally tense political transition” just 49 days before the handover of sovereignty, a senior United Nations envoy to the country today appealed for help from neighbouring states.

“After its experience of war and occupation, Iraq is in urgent need of international support in all aspects of its development, not least the re-establishment of political stability and internal security,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative ad interim for Iraq, Ross Mountain, told the opening meeting of Speakers of Parliaments of neighbouring countries in Amman, Jordan.

“Yet the prevailing conditions in Iraq make it an exceptionally challenging environment to provide assistance whether by the United Nations or any other international institution,” he added of the UN mission to help select a caretaker government by 30 June and organize elections by the end of January.

In a reference to recent photographs and reports of abuse of Iraqi detainees by United States personnel, Mr. Mountain noted that tension “has been further intensified by the horrifying revelations” in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

“Your presence here is testimony to the importance you all attach to assisting Iraq to establish its own parliamentary organs and thereby promote the growth of a healthy political life,” he said.

“What the United Nations is absolutely not striving to do is to tell the Iraqi people who should govern them in a sovereign government in the future,” he added. “The sole objective of the United Nations’ political role in Iraq is therefore to help in providing a framework that will allow the Iraqis to reach agreement among themselves on the way forward. I cannot stress too highly how important it is to help in providing the basic framework and allow the Iraqi people themselves to do the rest.”

Mr. Mountain declared that this is not the first time the world body is aiding the electoral process in fragile security conditions, “but rarely has the United Nations had to help organize elections on this scale under the range of security threats that we face in Iraq.” He stressed that the UN had to do its utmost to help without being present on the ground in the numbers that would be expected elsewhere.

“I am sure that the United Nations has your full support in ensuring that the (electoral) team’s neutrality and impartiality is appreciated and respected,” he told the assembled Speakers.