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Iraq, Neighbors Urge UN to Play Key Post-War Role - 2004-02-15

Senior officials from Iraq and its neighbor states are calling on the United Nations to play a central role in formation of a post-war government in Baghdad.

Foreign ministers from Iraq and eight other states in the region who have been meeting in Kuwait since Saturday asked the United Nations Sunday to help arrange the withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition forces as soon as possible.

The ministers said the United Nations should "assume its central responsibilities" in Iraq, and provide advice and technical expertise to those working to draft a constitution, hold elections and expedite a transfer of power to a sovereign Iraqi government.

The regional security meeting in Kuwait City included representatives from Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria, as well as Iraq and Kuwait. Egypt and Bahrain, which do not border Iraq, also attended.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called on Iraq's neighbor states Saturday to do all they can to prevent militants from crossing into Iraq. He spoke just hours after a bloody assault on Iraqi police in the town of Fallujah killed at least 23 people.

Fourteen Iraqi police officers were among the dead in Fallujah Saturday. Authorities say at least 40 insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons overwhelmed the town's lightly armed police and freed scores of prisoners who were being held on criminal charges.

Senior officials at the talks in Kuwait said they are concerned continuing strife in Iraq could lead to the country's break-up.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.