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Elections in Iraq on track, Annan says

Elections in Iraq on track, Annan says

Annan with Prime Minister Blair at 10 Downing Street
Elections in Iraq, scheduled for January 2005, are on track and should take place if the situation holds, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

Speaking in London, where he held talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and other senior officials of the United Kingdom, the Secretary-General noted that there is a United Nations team in Iraq working with the country's Independent Electoral Commission to set up the elections.

"We are giving them good support, we are assisting and advising their efforts," he said during a press conference with Mr. Straw. "And for the moment, we believe we are on track and if things go well and everyone does what they are supposed to do, and the environment holds, we should be able to have the elections."

He added that Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had told him that they were "determined to go ahead with the elections in January…They have ownership and we will support their efforts."

During their meeting Mr. Annan and Mr. Straw also discussed Iran, Sudan, Israel and Palestine, and UN reform.

The Secretary-General then met with 17 leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who asked him what they could do to further his agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight time-bound targets that seek to slash extreme poverty and hunger, curb infant mortality rates and major diseases, and improve access to education and health care for all - all by 2015.

Afterwards Mr. Annan went to Buckingham Palace for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II before holding a working lunch with Prime Minister Blair for talks on Iraq, Sudan, African development, climate change, Iran, and the Middle East.

During a press encounter following their meeting, the Secretary-General was asked again about Iraq. "I've indicated that any government with capacity and ability to help should do what they can to help stabilize Iraq so that they can get on with their lives," he replied. "And I indicated that security is absolutely essential for us to carry on reconstruction and all the wonderful plans we have for Iraq."

Mr. Annan also met with the Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn. They discussed Sudan from both the humanitarian and political points of view, the security situation in Iraq and its impact on the delivery of assistance, the MDGs and the Summit at next year's General Assembly to assess progress in reaching those targets, as well as Somalia.

Following that meeting he met with about a dozen Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament on a wide range of issues, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Middle East, UN reform, Haiti, Sudan and Kosovo.

Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, discussed the follow-up to the Doha round of trade negotiations. Other topics included the status of funding for the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the current world economy, the impact of oil prices and the role of emerging economies among developing countries.