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United Nations to Expand Role in Iraq


The United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution that expands the U.N. role in Iraq. From VOA's United Nations Bureau, Suzanne Presto reports the U.N. will play a larger role in brokering political dialogue inside Iraq and winning support from Iraq's neighbors for the country's security.

The resolution passed on Friday renews the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for one year, and also increases the U.N.'s political and humanitarian role in the nation.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says U.N. staffers will assist the Iraqi people and government on internal as well as on regional issues.

"The United Nations is deeply committed to helping the people of Iraq, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to now enhance, where possible, our contributions in crucial areas such as national reconciliation, regional dialogue, humanitarian assistance and human rights," he said.

He says the U.N. will work in close partnership with the leaders of Iraq, and also meet with leaders of various groups, to promote political reconciliation.

Mr. Ban lauded Iraqi leaders for their "courageous efforts," and he urged them to promote inclusive dialogue.

Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Hamid Al-Bayati says the resolution satisfies both the Iraqi government and the Security Council. He says the U.N.'s expanded mission will address sectarian divisions, as well as review the constitution.

"Iraq is facing challenges on the national level, regional level and on the humanitarian level," he said. "On the national level is the national reconciliation, which is important, and we believe UNAMI, with this expanded mandate could help in the national reconciliation among the Iraqi political parties and the groups. On the regional level we have humanitarian problems. We have refugees in the neighboring countries."

Humanitarian groups estimate that two million Iraqis have fled the country, while two million others are internally displaced.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad praised the United Nation's commitment to Iraq.

"In fulfilling the tasks set out in this resolution, U.N. staff in Iraq are making, have made, and will make a vital contribution to Iraq's future stability, and we deeply appreciate their sacrifices, their dedicated and selfless work," he said.

He says U.S. forces in Iraq will do their part to meet the U.N.'s security and resource needs.

The U.N. Mission in Iraq has 55 international employees in the country who handle basic political tasks. Officials say the number of staffers could be increased to 95, depending on the security situation on the ground.

Diplomats, including Secretary-General Ban, reiterated Friday that the safety of U.N. employees is a chief concern.

Four years ago, the U.N. pulled its staff from Iraq after terrorists blew up the organization's headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people including the top U.N. envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Afterwards, some U.N. employees were allowed to return.