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Top UN Envoy Seeks Potential Leaders in Iraq - 2003-05-27

The United Nations new special representative for Iraq says his first priority is to make contact with Iraqis who can provide leadership in social and civic institutions. Sergio Vieira de Mello says he will be in Iraq by Monday.

Mr. de Mello says he plans to establish "good working conditions" with the U.S.-British authority in Iraq. And he intends to visit all of the provinces in the country.

But first, the newly appointed U.N. envoy says he will do his utmost to work with potential Iraqi leaders.

"Priority number one will be to establish contacts with representative Iraqi leaders, representatives of the media, of civil society - and there are many," said Mr. de Mello. "Iraqi society is rich, and that richness has been suppressed, brutally, for the last 24 years, but they are there. They are there or they are returning as we speak and they are my priority."

Mr. de Mello called on Iraqis, the coalition authority and the United Nations to unite to end the suffering of the Iraqi people and to build a new Iraqi government as quickly as possible.

He says respect for human rights and the rights of women are fundamental to peace and stability in Iraq.

Mr. de Mello is serving as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative to Iraq for four months. Then he plans to return to his position as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In a news briefing at the United Nations with Mr. de Mello, Secretary General Annan explained that the decision to temporarily move Mr. de Mello from his human rights post was difficult. But his experience running U.N. missions in East Timor and Kosovo made him a perfect candidate.

"He has an exceptional and unique experience in running these operations and is also known as a good team-builder and a consensus-builder," said Mr. Annan. "I think he is someone who will hit the ground running."

Mr. Annan named his Special Representative to Iraq after the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution last week lifting nearly 13 years of economic sanctions. The measure gives the U.N. envoy a limited but independent role in the creation of Iraq's interim government while granting the coalition authority broad powers to rebuild the country's economic and political arenas.