UN plays down Iraq vote criticism

Top UN officials have sought to play down comments made by one of their senior election officials in Iraq, who described the US military involvement in the vote as overenthusiastic.

    A UN official had urged US troops to keep a low profile at polls

    Secretary-General Kofi Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said on Wednesday that UN electoral division chief Carina Perelli "misspoke" when she urged US soldiers to keep their involvement in elections down to a minimum.

    "She was trying to make a point about the great sensitivity among many Iraqis about the US presence as the election approaches, but not to deny the obvious fact that the US military, along with the Iraqi security forces, are playing a crucial role in providing security for Iraqi citizens who will be voting," he said.
    Eckhard added that Perelli "did not intend to criticise the US military's profile".
    Earlier, Perelli said "the US military has been I would say overenthusiastic in trying to help with this election".

    "We've been basically saying that they should minimise their participation because this is an Iraqi process, this is not a UN process." 
    Call to vote

    Meanwhile, Kieran Prendergast, the UN assistant secretary-general for political affairs, urged Iraqis to vote on Sunday despite security concerns.
    "Conditions are far from ideal. Security is a problem," he said.

    "We know that some Iraqis do not feel ready. Others are critical of the electoral system that was chosen, or suspicious of the impartiality of the Independent Electoral Commission which the UN helped to choose or otherwise feel excluded," he said. "None of this is surprising."
    But, he added: "However imperfect, elections are the right instrument of policy for a democratic, political transition in Iraq".



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