U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he will soon dispatch a permanent envoy to Baghdad, as the world body prepares to take on a bigger role in Iraq. But at the same time, Mr. Annan expressed concern about the recent surge of violence in several Iraqi cities.
Despite daily reports of terror attacks and military clashes, the secretary-general says he is sending a senior U.N. representative to Baghdad.
"I will be naming a special representative shortly, and his duty station will be Baghdad," announced Mr. Annan.
Mr. Annan noted that security conditions are deteriorating. That would prevent him from dispatching large numbers of U.N. staff to Iraq for the time being. But he rejected suggestions that the world body would not be able to take on a leading role in assisting Iraq's transition to a democratically-elected government.
"Call it what you wish," said Mr. Annan, "but I think when you look at the electoral process and the transition that we just went through, those are very critical activities. Quite frankly, if we're going to resolve the conflict in Iraq, it is through political reconciliation, it's through political work, it's through inclusive participatory elections and national conference which will be held next month."
Mr. Annan said for the time being, the bulk of U.N. staff assigned to Iraq will work out of nearby Jordan, finding creative ways to visit the country when necessary.
He pledged that the world body would do everything it could to help Iraqis prepare for credible elections next January.
The secretary-general leaves Sunday on a three-week tour that will take him to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. But for security reasons, his staff declines to say whether there is any possibility he might visit Iraq.