UN calls meeting of Iraqi leaders to curb sectarian strife after shrine attack

22 February 2006

Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to all communities in Iraq to show maximum restraint after the “provocative” bombing of a Shiite shrine today, and the top United Nations envoy on the ground said he would invite a wide range of Iraqi leaders to a meeting in an effort to curb communal strife.

Saying the attack on the holy shrine of Imam Ali-Hadi Mosque in Samarra was clearly aimed at provoking sectarian strife and undermining peace and stability, Mr. Annan urged all political and religious leaders to “come together in a spirit of dialogue and mutual respect to calm the situation and dedicate their efforts to ensure the respect of human rights and the protection of places of worship.

“The United Nations will continue to do everything possible to assist the Iraqi people to promote inter-communal dialogue and national reconciliation,” he added in a statement issued by his spokesman in New York.

In Baghdad, his Special representative Ashraf Qazi said he would invite government, political, religious and civic leaders to a meeting to seek to adopt a common policy and take concrete and immediate measures to foster a spirit of fraternity and mutual respect for peaceful alternatives to the violence racking the country.

“Whenever and wherever atrocities of this nature occur, the government must ensure that those responsible are brought to justice,” Mr. Qazi declared in a statement issued by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

“All the people of Iraq must be encouraged to show restraint in the face of provocations and demonstrate their resolve to defeat the designs of those who wish to promote communal strife and violence in their country,” he added, noting that no community in Iraq had been safe from such outrages.

This afternoon, following Security Council consultations, Council President John Bolton of the United States said the 15-member body strongly condemned the attacks, calling the people of Iraq “to come together against violence and terror and support the peaceful political process of national dialogue and unity.”

In a statement to the press, Mr. Bolton said that Council Members also reiterated their call for Iraq’s political leaders to work with resolve toward the formation of a fully-inclusive Government.