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Iraq: UN envoy holds new talks to promote full participation in political transition

Iraq: UN envoy holds new talks to promote full participation in political transition

Continuing his efforts to bring about the inclusion of all sectors of Iraqi society in writing the new constitution, the top United Nations envoy to that country held a series of meetings over the past 24 hours with Sunni and Shiite Arab leaders and government ministers.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Ashraf Qazi today met with Harith Al-Dhari, Secretary-General of the Association of Muslim Scholars, from the Sunni community, which largely stayed away from January's elections and hence has little representation in the National Assembly which will draft the new constitution.

Earlier this month, in what Mr. Annan called "important agreement," the Iraqis agreed to expand the Constitution Drafting Committee to include more Sunni Arabs, who represent some 20 per cent of the population but were the dominant political force in Saddam Hussein's ousted regime.

Mr. Qazi's meeting today followed one he held yesterday with and Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, President of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the leading Shiite Arab parties. Shiites represent about 60 per cent of the population and Sunni Kurds some 20 per cent. There are also other smaller communities such as Assyrians and Turkmen.

In talks with Interior Minister Bayan Sulagh today Mr. Qazi stressed the importance of developing a culture of respect for human rights while ensuring public order and security. He also met today with Minister of Planning and Development Barham Saleh to discuss preparations for the upcoming meeting of donors to Iraq.

Ever since the 30 January elections for the Transitional National Assembly, which will also organize fresh elections, Mr. Qazi has met almost daily with one sector or other in an effort ensure that all elements, particularly Sunni Arabs, participate in the country's political transition.

The UN has offered the full assistance of its experts both for the constitution-writing process and for holding the new poll.