Arab nationalists in Iraq must be persuaded to support elections, UN envoy says

16 January 2005
Amb. Ashraf Qazi

Elections scheduled to take place at the end of this month in Iraq must be as inclusive as possible, the United Nations envoy to the country said today, calling for greater efforts to reach out to Arab nationalists, especially the Sunni Muslims who have voiced reservations about the polling process.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, Ashraf Qazi, made his comments in Damascus following a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Shara.

“We have stressed to all concerned the importance of refraining from further violence and the need for all Iraqi parties, groups and entities to pursue their legitimate interests and aspirations through peaceful political means,” the UN envoy said. “We have also stressed that wider political participation by all the key Iraqi players is a prerequisite for a successful transition.”

Mr. Qazi recalled that the Secretary-General has encouraged all Iraqis to exercise their democratic right to vote while noting that conditions for balloting are far from ideal. “Among the measures needed to improve the environment for the elections is a continuation of outreach efforts to the Arab nationalist component of Iraqi society, especially the Sunni population who have expressed their concerns and reservations,” Mr. Qazi said.

He also called for condemnation of attempts to intimidate voters and electoral officials through threats and violence, and voiced confidence that Iraqis could overcome the obstacles ahead.

Mr. Qazi, a Pakistani national who served as his country's Ambassador to Syria from 1986-88, underscored that country's “manifold historic ties” with Iraq. He thanked the Damascus Government for its “positive attitude towards the role of the United Nations in the Iraqi transition.”

Given the complexity of the situation, he said, “it is obvious that the United Nations will only be able to fulfil its mandate towards the people of Iraq with the full support and cooperation of the [country's] neighbors.”


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