Secretary-General Kofi Annan today pledged anew full United Nations support for the Iraqi people in holding elections following yesterday's terror attacks that killed over 60 people, including three election workers, while in Baghdad his top envoy took the symbolic step of determining which parties would head the ballot list.
"No cause can justify the killings of innocent civilians and the cold-blooded murder of election workers whose only purpose is to help the Iraqi people exercise their democratic right to vote," Mr. Annan said in a statement issued by his spokesman in New York, condemning "in the strongest possible terms" the attacks in the two holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, as well as in Baghdad, in which more than 120 people were also wounded.
"The United Nations will continue to do everything possible to assist the Iraqi people in holding elections and in completing their political transition in an orderly way," the statement added, calling on all Iraqis not to be deterred by these attacks and to come together in a spirit of national reconciliation.
Meanwhile at a ceremony in Baghdad to determine the order on the ballots for the elections, scheduled for 30 January, Mr. Annan's Special Representative Ashraf Qazi pulled out the first three numbered balls from a rolling barrel containing 256 balls, each corresponding to one of the groups running.
"It is truly in the interest of every Iraqi citizen, whatever their political views, to participate in this electoral process," Mr. Qazi said, expressing confidence that the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq will be able to organize a credible, fair and transparent poll.
He added that the UN was privileged to have assisted the commission in preparing the ballot. Over 20 UN electoral experts have been working with the commission inside Iraq, and many more from outside the country, helping to draft regulations and procedures as well as in training.
Mr. Qazi discussed preparations for the vote with Interim President Ghazi Al Yawer and Prime Minister Iyad Alawi in separate meetings. The talks also dealt with efforts to encourage broader participation in the political process as well as the security situation.
In both meetings, Mr. Qazi said the UN would continue to do everything it can to support Iraq through the transitional process both on political and humanitarian fronts.