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Concerned at bloodshed in Iraq, Annan calls for ceasefire

Concerned at bloodshed in Iraq, Annan calls for ceasefire

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Reacting to widespread fighting in Iraq in recent days, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for a peaceful solution, pledging the world body's help towards this end.

A spokesman for Mr. Annan issued a statement voicing extreme concern at the violence, especially in the holy city of Najaf.

The Secretary-General “is particularly troubled by the high toll of dead and wounded, including civilian casualties,” the spokesman said.

The statement, released in New York, emphasized that force should be a last resort and called for “every effort to be made, even at this late hour, to work out a ceasefire and peaceful solution.”

As the UN helps Iraq to prepare for its National Conference, due to begin in mid-August, the spokesman said that event can be an important step in a peaceful and inclusive political transition, by promoting national reconciliation and dialogue. “The United Nations is ready to extend its facilitating role to the current crisis, if this would be helpful.”

The statement also called Prime Minister Allawi's offer of a limited amnesty and wider participation in the political process “steps in the right direction.”