IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL, SECRETARY-GENERAL
SAYS UN READY TO PLAY “FULL PART” IN HELPING IRAQ
TO BUILD BETTER FUTURE
Iraqi Foreign Minister Underlines Need for Expanded UN Role
NEW YORK, 16 December (UN Headquarters) -- Meeting just three days after the capture by Coalition forces of Saddam Hussein, the Security Council heard Secretary-General Kofi Annan say this morning that Mr. Hussein’s capture was not just a symbol of the downfall of the former regime in Iraq, but also a chance for a new beginning in the vital task of helping Iraqis to take control of their destiny.
Also addressing the Council, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said “we Iraqis have waited so long for our nightmare to be over, and now Saddam is finally gone along with the fear of the genocide and terror he had inflicted, and he is never coming back”. At last, Iraqis could begin the long-overdue healing process of seeking unity, peace and national reconciliation without the “shadow of evil” hanging over them.
The Secretary-General, referring to his latest report on Iraq, which says that the United Nations mission would be built up incrementally outside of Iraq -- in Nicosia, Cyprus; and Amman, Jordan -- today reaffirmed that the United Nations was ready to play its “full part” in helping Iraqis resume control of their destiny and build a better future, but it was also mindful of the fact that, owing to persistent security concerns, few international United Nations staff could operate inside the country for the time being.
The challenge, therefore, had been to find creative ways of intensifying the engagement of the United Nations despite its diminished capacity on the ground, he said. As his report had made clear, in spite of the temporary relocation of international staff outside the country, “the United Nations had not disengaged from Iraq -- far from it. Nor did that mean that the United Nations would not return in full force when circumstances permitted. (For a complete transcript of the Secretary-General’s statement, please see Press Release SG/SM/9084.)
Mr. Zebari stressed that the current situation underlined the need for a deepened United Nations involvement in Iraq. However, United Nations’ help could not be effectively delivered from Cyprus or Amman. As the United Nations had offered reassurances by its presence in so many dangerous and difficult situations, Iraq was ready to help provide whatever security was necessary.
He called on members of the United Nations to look beyond their differences over their decision to go to war in Iraq, and come together to forge an international consensus. Settling scores with the United States-led Coalition should not be at the cost of helping to build stability for the Iraqi people. That took a backseat to their daily struggle for security, jobs and all their rights the United Nations was mandated to uphold.
The situation in his country was much more complicated than that of Afghanistan or Somalia, he said. Its geographical and strategic position meant that development in Iraq impacted security and stability across the Middle East region. The United Nations also had a responsibility to increase cooperation and overcome its differences to help Iraqis in the fight against terrorism. The scourge of terrorism was not just a problem for the Coalition, but a global phenomenon.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and was adjourned at 10:50 a.m.
When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the Secretary-General’s latest report on Iraq, dated 5 December (document S/2003/1149), in which he says it is impossible to forecast, at this juncture, if and when circumstances will permit the full deployment of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
Clearly, he states, the operation will need to build up incrementally, at a pace and scope that cannot yet be defined. Thus, the bulk of UNAMI staff will be located temporarily in Nicosia. Additional UNAMI staff will be deployed to a small office in Amman and to other locations in the region, as required.
He says he envisages an integrated core of approximately 40 international UNAMI staff in total -- consisting of political, human rights, public information, humanitarian and developmental programme officers, as well as security and administrative/logistics support specialists -- to be in place by early 2004. This number would be expected to increase to up to 60 international staff (to cater for a personal security detail and immediate front office staff) once a new Special Representative has been appointed. The core UNAMI team will initially be managed by Ross Mountain, who will serve as acting Special Representative, until a new Special Representative is appointed.
The report sets forth the following: United Nations activities and key developments in Iraq from 17 July to 19 August; the events of 19 August, when the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was attacked “with devastating consequences and implications”; and the actions taken by the United Nations in the aftermath, including the relocation of most international staff; the United Nations relief, recovery and reconstruction planning activities; key political developments; and an action plan for security; the deployment of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI); and the conduct of United Nations relief, recovery and reconstruction activities in Iraq.
It recognizes that in many areas, including the advancement of basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and of political assembly, as well as the provision of basic services and the reconstitution of the local police, very real progress has been made in Iraq in the past few months. This progress should not be underestimated; nor should the efforts of the Coalition Provisional Authority and newly emerging Iraqi institutions be overlooked.
At the same time, the report finds, the dangers posed by insurgents, whose attacks have been growing in sophistication and strength over the past months, are real. The activities of these insurgents, about whose nature more needs to be known, have inflicted serious damage on the United Nations, the diplomatic community, international non-governmental organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Coalition forces, in addition to killing a large number of Iraqis.
In order to mitigate the possibility that this insurgency will grow over time, quantitatively and qualitatively, various steps will need to be taken, the report states. First and foremost, actions need to be taken recognizing that the mounting insecurity problem cannot be solved through military means alone. A political solution is required. That entails making the political transition process more inclusive, so as to bring in additional groups and individuals that have thus far been excluded, or that have excluded themselves. It means truly empowering Iraqi institutions to take the decisions that will shape the political and economic future of their country.
In order to command widespread support, the report says, these institutions need to function effectively and transparently. Political steps of this kind would make it clearer that the foreign occupation of Iraq is to be short-lived -- and that it will soon give way to a fully fledged Iraqi Government empowered to rally support. Within that context, the announcement in the 15 November agreement setting forth a clear timetable and a precise date for the formation of a sovereign Iraqi Government and the dissolution of the Coalition Provisional Authority is an important step in the right direction.
According to the report, the second step involved the articulation of a national agenda, which is truly representative of all segments of Iraqi society. The third is intensified efforts by Coalition forces to demonstrate that they are adhering strictly to international humanitarian law and human rights instruments -- even in the face of deliberate and provocative terrorist attacks, sometimes against vulnerable and defenceless civilians. That would make it much more difficult for the insurgents to rally support for their cause. In this connection, the use of lethal force by the Coalition forces should be proportionate and discriminating. Special care should be taken to avoid inflicting casualties in innocent Iraqi civilians.
The Secretary-General says in the report that, although he has had to temporarily relocate most United Nations international staff outside the country, the United Nations will not disengage from Iraq. On the contrary, even following the tragic events of 19 August, the United Nations has carried out a massive amount of assistance, in large measure through the skilled and heroic efforts of its Iraqi staff, as well as those who were relocated to Amman, Kuwait and other locations in the region. He has now set in motion the process of assembling in the region a core of UNAMI so that the United Nations can be in a position to move swiftly back to the country if the Iraqi people seek the Organization’s assistance, and if circumstances on the ground permit.
On the political front, the Secretary-General says he has been personally engaged with heads of State and government and foreign ministers around the world in an effort to help forge an international consensus on the way forward. Regarding a physical presence inside Iraq, the United Nations will continue to operate under severe constraints in the coming weeks and months. He cannot afford to compromise the security of our international and national staff. In taking the difficult decisions that lie ahead, he will be asking himself questions such as “whether the substance of the role allocated to the United Nations is proportionate to the risks we are being asked to take, whether the political process is fully inclusive and transparent and whether the humanitarian tasks in question are truly life-saving, or not”.
He says he will also ask what the Iraqis themselves expect of the United Nations, and whether its activities serve the cause of restoring to them, as soon as possible, full control over their own destiny and resources. Meanwhile, though the context for their deployment will and must change soon, it is likely that Iraq will continue to require assistance, in the form of a substantial military presence, for a number of years to come. The Iraqi people need to be reassured that, if and when a new Iraqi Government requests such assistance on behalf of the Iraqi people, it will be forthcoming, not only from the current contributors to the United States-led Coalition, but from a broad range of other countries, as well.
“The future of a nation of more than 26 million people and of a volatile region is at stake”, the Secretary-General concludes. The process of restoring peace and stability to Iraq “cannot be allowed to fail”. The consequences for Iraqis themselves, the region and the international community as a whole would be disastrous. Too many Iraqis and representatives of the international community, including deeply respected and gifted United Nations colleagues, have sacrificed their lives. Their sacrifice cannot be allowed to have been in vain.
Statement by Secretary-General
Briefing the Security Council on the situation in Iraq this morning, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the capture of Saddam Hussein was not just a symbol of the downfall of the former regime in Iraq, but also a chance for a new beginning in the vital task of helping Iraqis to take control of their destiny.
He said it was right that Mr. Hussein should be held to account for his past deeds, through a procedure that met the highest international standards of due process, he said. Accounting for the past would be an important part of bringing about national reconciliation -- a process that was vital to Iraq and to all Iraqis.
The Secretary-General said that the 26 million people of Iraq had endured decades of war, sanctions, tyranny and misery. They were now living through a process that would define the future of their country. For their sake, and for the memory of those who had given their lives to help the people of Iraq, that process must be made to succeed.
Describing as urgent the task of restoring the effective exercise of sovereignty to Iraqis, in the form of a provisional government, he said that Iraqis must have real ownership of the process by which they were governed. The United Nations was ready to play its “full part” in helping Iraqis resume control of their destiny and build a better future. But it was also mindful of the fact that, owing to persistent security concerns, few international United Nations staff could operate inside the country for the time being.
The challenge, therefore, had been to find creative ways of intensifying United Nations’ engagement despite its diminished capacity on the ground, he said. As his latest report made clear, despite the temporary relocation of international staff outside the country, “the United Nations had not disengaged from Iraq. Far from it. Nor does it mean that we will not return in full force when circumstances permit”, he stressed.
It was impossible to say with any certainty when circumstances would permit the return of international staff to the country on a permanent basis, he said. However, there was much that could be done -- much that was already being done -- from outside the country.
He himself remained in close contact with heads of State and government, foreign ministers and ambassadors, trying to help forge international consensus on the way forward, he added. To that end, he had convened on 1 December a meeting of members of the Security Council and States in the region. For its part, the core team of UNAMI based in the region would keep abreast of key developments on the political and human rights fronts and explore avenues of United Nations assistance, while preparing the ground for United Nations involvement in the longer term.
Meanwhile, as the report indicated, much greater clarity on what was expected of the United Nations by Iraqis and by the Coalition in terms of assistance to the political transition was needed, he said. That was not, however, as some had concluded, a formula for the United Nations to stand aloof from the process. The stakes were too high for the international community just to watch from the sidelines.
Rather, clarity had been called for because, in taking the difficult decisions that lay ahead, he needed to weigh the degree of risk the United Nations was being asked to accept against the substance of the role it was being asked to fill, he explained. It was necessary to know how responsibilities would be allocated and who would be taking what decisions. Above all, it was necessary to know what the Iraqis expected of the United Nations, and whether the Organization would be in a position to meet those expectations.
Iraq was likely to remain a difficult environment, he stressed. The end of the occupation and the formation of a provisional Iraqi Government should not be expected automatically to bring about an end to insecurity, even though some improvement should be expected. The events of the past three days should serve as a reminder to remain prudent on assessments. There was no panacea.
However, a credible and inclusive transition, he said, one that broadened the base of support for the provisional Iraqi Government, offered the best hope of stability and of political mobilization by Iraqis against the violence. At every step along the road ahead, there would be formidable challenges. But those challenges would not be insurmountable if a genuinely national Iraqi agenda was forged, and if it was supported by a united international community, including Iraq’s neighbours and key States in the region, who had a crucial role to play.
Political, financial and military assistance would be required for quite some time, he concluded. As emphasized in the report, the Iraqi people must be reassured that the international community -- current Coalition and non-Coalition members alike -- would respond generously to their requests for help. They must also be confident that the commitment would be maintained down the road, when a provisional government had been formed and the situation in Iraq no longer dominated news headlines.
Statement by Foreign Minister of Iraq
HOSHYAR ZEBARI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, said this past Saturday had been historical for his country, which had long awaited the end of its nightmare. Now Saddam Hussein had finally gone, and along with him the fear, terror and genocide he had inflicted. Saddam Hussein must now answer to the Iraqi people for his crimes against humanity, whereas the people of Iraq could begin the long overdue process of seeking peace and national reconciliation, without the shadow of evil hanging over them. Thus, he wished to express his appreciation, on behalf of the Iraqi people, to the Coalition for delivering them from the mass murderer.
Yet, while the celebrations continued there, one must also persevere in empowering the Iraqi people to take charge of their own destiny, he affirmed. In accordance with paragraph 7 of Security Council resolution 1511 (2003), by which the Governing Council had been invited to set out a timetable for the drafting of a new Constitution and the holding of elections, he wished to present the timetable for that political process. The Iraqi Governing Council and the Transitional Provisional Authority had agreed to the timetable on 15 November.
Accordingly, the Iraqi Governing Council, in consultation with the Coalition Provisional Authority, would draft a Fundamental law, which would set out the timetable leading to elections and cover the mandate of the sovereign Iraqi Transitional Administration and the principles to be followed prior to drawing up the permanent constitution. Its key elements would include provisions for human rights and guarantees of freedoms, a federal structure for Iraq, civilian control of Iraqi armed forces, judicial independence and a timetable for drafting and ratifying Iraq’s new constitution and holding direct elections. Approval of the Fundamental Law was to be completed by 28 February 2004.
Among other elements of the timetable, he said that bilateral agreements with the Coalition on security and the status of Coalition forces in Iraq would be completed by the end of March 2004. The election of members to a Transitional National Assembly would be conducted through regional caucuses. Nominations to those caucuses would be solicited from political parties; local councils; professional, academic and civic associations; and tribal and religious groups. Each caucus would then elect representatives to the new Transitional Assembly by 31 May 2004. The Transitional Assembly would then elect an executive and appoint ministers for the new Transitional Administration by 30 June 2004, when it would assume full sovereign powers, and the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council would be dissolved.
Furthermore, a Constitutional Convention to draw up a permanent constitution for Iraq would be directly elected by the Iraqi people by 15 March 2005. A final draft would be presented and a popular referendum held to ratify it. Elections based on the new Constitution would be held by 31 December 2005. At that point, the Fundamental Law would expire.
The plan clearly spelled out the steps to be taken in restoring full sovereignty to Iraq, he said, and the Governing Council had unanimously agreed upon the timetable since its inception. It was unambiguous, comprehensive and achievable, and the Governing Council remained wholly committed to its implementation. However, he warned, progress would continue to depend on the security situation in Iraq. Until significant improvements were seen, the road ahead would not be easy. Thus, while the capture of Saddam Hussein would serve as a huge blow to his loyalists, the focus must remain upon empowering the Iraqi people.
Iraq had been traumatized by the legacy of decades of unimaginable human suffering, gross violations of human rights and the effects of systematic policies designed to rip the country apart along ethnic or religious lines, he recalled. Yet today, one saw unprecedented efforts among leaders and political, religious, ethnic and sectarian groups to unite against the tyranny of the past and work together to build democratic future. That momentum demanded international encouragement and recognition so that the Iraqi people could move ahead with confidence and hope.
Iraq must no longer live in the past, but look to the future, he stressed. The United Nations was the key forum for collective international action to help the Iraqi people achieve their goals of structuring and democratizing the country. The vital role played by the United Nations in Iraq had always been welcomed. Its humanitarian services had constituted a lifeline to many during the prolonged crisis. Moreover, tribute must be paid to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who had served as a role model for how effective the United Nations could be.
The current situation underlined the need for a deepened United Nations involvement in Iraq, he stressed. However, United Nations help could not be effectively delivered from Cyprus or Amman. As the United Nations had offered reassurances by its presence in so many dangerous and difficult situations, Iraq was ready to help provide whatever security was necessary. He looked forward to meeting the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ross Mountain, in Baghdad to discuss the United Nations’ role.
He called on Members of the United Nations to look beyond their differences over their decision to go to war in Iraq, and come together to forge an international consensus. Settling scores with the United States-led Coalition should not be at the cost of helping to build stability for the Iraqi people. Squabbling over political differences took a backseat to their daily struggle for security, jobs and all their rights the United Nations was mandated to uphold.
Iraq was reaching out to its neighbours and the international community, but insisted on playing a full part in any initiatives concerning the future of the country, he said. Without Iraqi participation, decisions taken could not be held valid. “Iraq is our country, and our opinion must not be excluded.” He strongly disagreed with those who questioned the legitimacy of the present Iraqi authorities. The Governing Council was the most representative and democratic governing body in the region. For that reason, Security Council members should be reaching out and engaging it to encourage that nascent democracy in a region well known for its authoritative rule.
He described the situation in Iraq as much more complicated than that of Afghanistan or Somalia. Its geographical and strategic position meant that development in Iraq impacted security and stability across the Middle East region. The United Nations had a responsibility to increase cooperation and overcome its differences to help Iraqis in the fight against terrorism. Iraq was increasingly a magnet for terrorists. That was not just a problem for the Coalition. Just as the scourge of terrorism was a global phenomenon, the security situation could not be viewed in isolation.
If terrorism were to win in Iraq, that would spill over its borders and no country would be safe, he warned. One year ago, the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Hussein and those who wanted him to be held accountable.
He told the Council that the United Nations failed to help rescue Iraqis from a murderous tyranny, which was today unearthing thousands of victims of horrifying treatment. The United must not fail the Iraqi people again. After eight months of liberation, Iraq was slowly getting back on its feet with the help of friends and allies and eagerly awaiting help from the international community, led by the United Nations.
“We ask you today, please put aside your differences, pull together and work with us”, for all of those who sacrificed so much to realize the shared objective of a sovereign, united and democratic Iraq, he said.
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