Top UN envoy meets with senior Iraqi religious officials in Najaf
While in Najaf yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Staffan de Mistura – who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) – also visited the Shrine of Imam Ali.
In a two-hour meeting, the Special Representative informed Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Sistani of UNAMI’s scaled-up political and humanitarian activities.
In response to Mr. de Mistura’s request for advice on what the UN can do to help the war-torn nation tackle its challenges, Grand Ayatollah Sistani underscored “the importance of Iraqi national reconciliation, the usefulness of increased UN presence and assistance, as well as more frequent contacts with the Marja-iya, and above all the need for the Iraqi people to be able to participate in fair, free and inclusive elections,” according to a press release issued by the Mission.
Additionally, the Grand Ayatollah emphasized the need for fairness and transparency in all election-related activities.
During his talks with Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Said Al-Hakim, the Special Representative voiced the UN’s appreciation for last February’s decision by Shiite leader Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr to continue the suspension of Jaysh Al Mehdi’s activities, also known as the Mahdi Army, which is key to promoting stability.
Mr. de Mistura also held meetings in Najaf with Grand Ayatollah Sheik Mohammad Al-Yacoubi, Sayyed Hazim Al-Araji of the office of Al-Shahid Al-Sadr, the Governor of Al Najaf, Asa’ad Abu Kalal and others.
At the end of his visit to Najaf – which was coordinated with Iraqi authorities – the Special Representative expressed the UN’s commitment for “increased engagement” in both the city and governorate of Najaf as well as all of Iraq.