UN expands role in Iraq

UN mission to be increased despite the security concerns of staff members.

    The resolution was approved unanimously by
    the 15 members of the council [AFP]

    It 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.

     

    Promoting security

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

      

    "Our view right from the beginning was that we should have an important role for the UN"


    Hamid al-Bayati, Iraq's ambassador to the UN

    The US-led multinational force in Iraq would support UNAMI, especially in providing a safe environment for its staff.

    Washington was quick to welcome the new mandate.


    "This vote sends an important signal of the United Nations' commitment to support stability and security in Iraq," Dana Perino, White House spokesperson, said.
      

    The expanded role is expected to require the UN to increase its international staff in Baghdad. There are currently number about 50 of them in the fortified Green Zone government and diplomatic compound.

     

    Until now, they have been mainly concerned with helping organise elections and monitoring human rights.

    Safety concerns

    While Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, endorsed the expansion of the UN role at a meeting last month with George Bush, the US president, some UN staff are concerned that safety issues have not been fully addressed.

     

    A bomb blast in August 2003 destroyed the
    UN office in Baghdad killing 22 people [EPA]

    An explosion destroyed the UN 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 UN staff from Iraq.

       

    On Tuesday, the UN staff union called on Ban not to deploy any more people to Iraq and to withdraw those now there.

     

    But Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman, said on Wednesday: "We intend to continue with the work that is needed to fulfil our mandate."

    Ahead of the vote, Hamid al-Bayati, Iraq's ambassador to the UN, backed the resolution.


    "Our view right from the beginning was that we should have an important role for the UN," Bayati said.

    "They were hesitant after the terrorist attack against the UN headquarters in Baghdad ... But we've been encouraging them to send more personnel and staff to Iraq and we hope that they will be able to do so after this resolution."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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