There is strong consensus within the Security Council on an expanded United Nations role in Iraq, the world organization’s top political officer said today, although he said security constraints imposed by the continuing conflict in the country would mean only a small increase in UN staff there.
“There was really quite a unanimous agreement in the Council itself on what the role of the UN should be,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe said after briefing the 15-member body, which was discussing a new resolution for the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
“Everyone seemed to feel quite comfortable with the role as laid out in this resolution,” he added. “So I think that there’s a very strong consensus among all the members of the Security Council about what the UN should be doing and I think this resolution is right in the middle of that.”
Mr. Pascoe noted that UNAMI’s current mandate is almost three years old, and that much has now been accomplished. “The effort now is to update that mandate to get it much closer to the kinds of things we are working on, the kinds of things we’re doing and to make it clear that the Council strongly supports that effort,” he said.
“We’re talking in terms of reconciliation, in terms of some of the other issues that we had been working on,” he added, noting that the Iraqi Government had asked the UN to do more in certain areas.
He stressed that physical security is a concern after the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others were killed in a bomb attack in Baghdad four years ago. Since then, international civilian UN staff in Iraq have been reduced to a maximum of 65, although many more UN personnel work from Amman in neighbouring Jordan.
“We are doing what we can to make sure that our people are safe,” he said. “We are trying to do what we can to make sure that they also have the conditions that they can work and be very productive. So we’re trying to thread through that difficult problem.”
He said that the number of UN staff in Baghdad could reach a maximum of 95 by October, but cautioned that security was a major concern, citing recent mortar and other attacks in the Green Zone in the city.
“It’s not a huge increase, it’s a small increase, but again what we’re looking for here are not numbers, not the number of people we throw at things, but how much we’re really working on the major issues,” he added. “We will be constantly looking at the security situation everywhere to decide what level is appropriate.”