Pakistani may be UN Iraq envoy

A leading Pakistani diplomat is topping the list of candidates being considered for the post of head of the UN mission in Iraq.

    The UN mission in Baghdad was bombed in August last year

    Pakistan's ambassador

    to Washington appears to have the edge as Secretary-General

    Kofi Annan's top envoy for Iraq, diplomats said on Thursday. 


    Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who has been in his post in

    Washington for nearly two years, has been on Annan's short list

    for about a week as his special representative in Iraq.


    The post has been empty since the bombing attack on UN

    headquarters in Baghdad last August that killed 22 people,

    including the head of the mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello.


    Annan was to have made a decision last week but diplomats

    said his extensive travel this month was a prime cause for the

    delay. Earlier he had difficulty finding a qualified candidate

    because of the precarious safety conditions in Iraq. 


    India's Salman Haider, a former deputy foreign minister,

    had been considered the front-runner but the diplomats said

    Qazi is now under serious consideration. They said Annan first

    wanted to speak to government leaders of candidates involved

    before announcing his choice.


    Qazi served as Pakistan's high commissioner to India as

    well as ambassador to China, Russia, the former East Germany

    and Syria.


    He has held diplomatic assignments in Copenhagen,

    Tokyo, Cairo, Egypt, Tripoli and London. He has a master's

    degree in economics.


    Special UN guard


    A special UN force was expected to guard UN staff, with

    diplomats saying fresh troops had volunteered from Nepal,

    Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. But Annan has made clear the

    UN operation would be a small one. 


    Some envoys said Annan was hoping for troops from Pakistan

    or India if Qazi or Haider were named.


    Senior UN officials have commuted to Baghdad since

    foreign staff was withdrawn.


    Special adviser Lakhdar Brahimi, who for months has said he

    was not interested in the post, helped form the interim

    government that took power on June 28. UN elections chief

    Carina Perelli has also spent considerable time in Baghdad.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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