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Conference Vows Help for Iraq, Urges Role for Sunnis


U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (l) with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Senior officials from more than 80 countries and organizations are meeting in Brussels to rally support for Iraq's elected government as it moves to secure and rebuild the country. But, the officials are also calling on Baghdad to ensure that minority Sunni Arabs play a full role in Iraq's future.

The European Union and the United States are hosting the conference whose aim, according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is to build a new international partnership for Iraq.

"The brave people of Iraq are asking us to stand with them, and they deserve our full support," said Condoleezza Rice. "So, today in Brussels, we begin a new conversation between the international community and the democratic government of a free Iraq. This partnership will support the Iraqi government along three important fronts: political reform, economic reconstruction, and strengthening security with the rule of law."

Ms. Rice says Iraq, too, has obligations to improve security, liberalize its economy, and, in particular, open up to all elements of Iraqi society who reject violence, a reference to the Sunni Arabs who make up about 20 percent of the population and who largely boycotted last January's elections. Sunni Arabs also form the backbone of a stubborn insurgency.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, saying the reconstruction of Iraq must succeed, also called on Iraq's different ethnic and religious groups to reach out to one another.

"Iraqis must come together to draft a new constitution in an inclusive, participatory, transparent process that responds to the demands of all constituencies," said Kofi Annan. "Achieving consensus on a new constitution will require compromise, but we have seen that compromise is possible and that it bears fruit."

Mr. Annan says that, without an inclusive process, any effort to improve security in Iraq is not likely to yield enduring results.

The body charged with drafting a constitution for Iraq by mid-August has agreed to increase the number of Sunnis on the panel.

A draft declaration circulating among the delegates urges Iraq and its neighbors to cooperate on border security. Ms. Rice says Syria has a key role to play in this regard.

"We all recognize our obligation to help Iraq fulfill the promise of its democratic transformation," said Ms. Rice. "Iraq's neighbors, Syria in particular, must secure their borders from those who seek to destroy Iraq's progress. And all countries must deliver the material support they have already pledged to the government of Iraq."

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, heard here through an interpreter, says it is urgent for his country's neighbors to prevent insurgents from infiltrating into Iraq.

"Terrorism does not respect borders," said Ibrahim Al-Jaafari. "Terrorism is something that affects human beings as a whole, and it is the enemy of all of us, and we need to work together in order to put an end to terrorism. It's not just a question of oral condemnation. We need to go one step further and implement measures and mechanisms to ensure that there is respect for human life and to ensure that there is a stable and prosperous Iraq."

Mr. Jaafari wants the international community to help his government fight the insurgents by training its security forces and offering expertise in instituting the rule of law in Iraq. But diplomats say the lack of security in Iraq continues to be the major obstacle to reconstruction efforts and is scaring away the foreign investment the country needs so badly.