United Nations Will Help Iraq Form a Government
Special Envoy Brahimi's team will return to Iraq, Annan says
By Judy Aita
United Nations -- Secretary General Kofi Annan said March 19 that he intends to send a team of U.N. experts to Baghdad to help the Iraqi Governing Council form an interim government and arrange for elections.
Annan responded to a letter sent by the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Mohammed Bahr Al-Uloom.
U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the Governing Council "welcomes U.N. consultation on the broad national dialogue regarding the shape and scope of the interim government" to take over when the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ends June 30. The spokesman said L. Paul Bremer, U.S. administrator in Iraq, sent a similar letter.
Al-Uloom's letter said that the Governing Council looks forward to U.N. assistance with direct elections to take place before the end of January next year, Eckhard said.
Annan announced that Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy who led an initial mission on elections to Iraq in February, will lead the new U.N. effort. He said Brahimi's team will leave "as soon as practicable."
"In the report that we gave (the Iraqis), there were quite a few options indicated (on forming a government) and there may have been options that were not mentioned," Annan told the press as he arrived at U.N. headquarters March 19.
"They've had time to digest that report, to talk amongst themselves and I think the first thing Mr. Brahimi will do when he gets there is to talk to them, to listen, and to see how we can help them come to a consensus and a viable option," he added.
"First of all, the Iraqi people have a lot to do themselves," he said. "They are very talented people. They have some very capable people and, given a fair chance and a secure environment, there's a lot that they can do for themselves."
"And of course, as they have also requested, we will help them with the establishment of a legal framework and, eventually, preparation for the elections," the secretary general said.
The U.N. decision to return to Iraq is the first U.N. political operation in the country since the terrorist bombing of U.N. headquarters in August 2003 that killed 22 including Annan's special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
The United Nations has decided to return to Iraq in the wake of a bomb attack on a Baghdad hotel that killed seven and wounded hundreds March 17 and despite reports that some members of the Iraqi Governing Council do not want the United Nations to play a role in Iraq.
Annan said that he continues to be concerned about the security situation in Iraq, but the United Nations is "relying on the CPA and the Governing Council to assure the security of the team that goes in."
"I think both the CPA and the Governing Council are very conscious of their obligations as we are of ours," the secretary general said. "And I hope they will do their best to put the best available security team to protect the men and women that I'm sending in there to assist."
Brahimi added that he was sure "there definitely are two or three people in the Governing Council who have doubts about how useful the role of the U.N. might be, and there are people outside of the Governing Council who probably hold that view. But from everything we know, the overwhelming majority of the people of Iraq, within and outside the Governing Council, are really demanding and pressing the United Nations to come back to play a role."
Annan said that Iraq is a "very difficult and complex situation" that the United Nations alone can solve.
"When we talk of the U.N., we're talking of the international community, donor community, the neighbors of Iraq, all of us coming together and working with the Iraqi people to make Iraq a peaceful, stable and democratic country," Annan said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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