U.N. to have expanded political role in Iraq

The Security Council voted on Friday to assign the United Nations an expanded political role in Iraq, promoting reconciliation between its rival factions and dialogue with neighboring countries.

U.N. to have expanded political role in Iraq

The 15-nation council unanimously approved a U.S.-British resolution boosting the responsibilities of the four-year-old U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, or UNAMI, whose existing mandate expired on Friday.

The new mandate requires UNAMI to "advise, support and assist" Iraqis on "advancing their inclusive, political dialogue and national reconciliation," reviewing their constitution, fixing internal boundaries and staging a census.

The mission would promote talks between Iraq and its neighbors on border security, energy and refugees, assist the return of millions who have fled the violence, coordinate reconstruction and aid, and help promote economic reform.

The expanded role is expected to require an increase in U.N. international staff in Baghdad, who currently number about 50 in the fortified Green Zone government and diplomatic compound. Until now, they have been mainly concerned with helping with elections and monitoring human rights.

Washington's U.N. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said this week the United Nations was uniquely placed to smooth over conflicts between Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds that have bedeviled Iraqi politics and fueled rampant violence.

Some major Iraqi players, like top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, were willing to talk to the United Nations, but not the United States or Britain, said Khalilzad, formerly U.S. envoy to Baghdad.

SECURITY CONCERNS

By coincidence, the new mandate will come amid a fresh political crisis in Iraq, with nearly half the cabinet having quit, or boycotting meetings.
.S. and British officials have denied that their aim is to offload Iraq's political problems onto the United Nations, then pull their forces out.

While Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon endorsed the U.N. role expansion at a meeting last month with U.S. President George W. Bush, some U.N. rank-and-file staff are concerned that safety issues have not been fully addressed.

Fresh in their minds is the explosion that destroyed the U.N. office in Baghdad in August 2003 and killed 22 people, including mission chief Sergio Vieira de Mello. The blast led to the temporary withdrawal of U.N. staff.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Staff Union called on Ban not to deploy any more people to Iraq and to withdraw those now there. But U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said on Wednesday: "We intend to continue with the work that is needed to fulfill our mandate."

The new resolution was originally slated to be passed on Thursday but was delayed because the text needed Iraqi government approval, U.N. diplomats said.

Reuters

Last Mod: 10 Ağustos 2007, 20:07
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