The United Nations' special representative for Iraq says he does not believe Iraq is headed toward a civil war despite an escalation in sectarian violence. Ashraf Qazi told an audience in Washington Friday, the two biggest challenges facing Iraq right now are to form an inclusive government and to improve the security situation.
"I believe that that prospect is certainly not there, Alhumdullah - God be praised," he said. "But a very serious situation does exist, which if not addressed could lead to the breakdown of law and order, the breakdown of governance, and bring about a situation that would approach anarchy," said Ambassador Qazi, who has been based in Iraq for the last 18 months.
He says Iraq's political leadership and government officials are very aware of the situation and the need for immediate and long-term measures to avoid such an outcome.
"However, the deeper causes do need to be addressed by the political situation, otherwise the sectarian situation could become as much of a threat to the stability of Iraq as the insurgency itself, and the two could mesh together and reinforce each other," he said.
Elected in December, the legislators have yet to form a new government, but the U.N. envoy was optimistic that a national unity government would be formed soon.
"Hopefully, if not by the end of this month, then certainly before the end of April, because it's important you have a broad-based effective government to deal with the challenges the country is confronted with," he said.
The envoy welcomed news that the United States and Iran say they are willing to hold direct talks regarding Iraq.
"This is an initiative which has been in the works for some time," he said. "I'm very glad to see Iran has responded positively. Both the United States and Iran have an impact on the situation in Iraq and they have a stake in the outcome of the processes that are under way."
Ambassador Qazi says he does not expect the United Nations will play a direct role in the talks, but says the world body is always ready to facilitate processes if called upon.