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New UN Envoy Heads to Iraq - 2004-08-09

The new head of the U.N. mission in Iraq, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, is on his way to Baghdad. But U.N. officials are concerned about his security, and will release few details about his planned schedule or arrival.

Mr. Qazi is the first special envoy to begin work in Baghdad since a bomb attack killed 22 U.N. workers, including the former head of the U.N. mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello, about a year ago.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard says Mr. Qazi is heading to Baghdad now, but he would not say much more. "He has left New York. We will not be giving you any details of his travel to Iraq. He is on his way there," he said. "And we won't announce his arrival..."

Security is the leading concern for Mr. Qazi and the small crew of staff that is expected to accompany him. Officials say he will be protected by coalition troops already in Iraq.

Mr. Qazi, a veteran diplomat from Pakistan, has said his top priority is helping Iraqis organize free elections.

His first job will be to facilitate the Iraqi National Conference, which is supposed to begin next week, following a two-week postponement. The conference is intended to bring together a diverse range of community leaders who will elect an interim, 100-member assembly. U.N. officials say they expect country-wide elections to take place in January.

Mr. Qazi has nearly four decades of diplomatic experience and has served as Pakistan's ambassador to China, India, Russia, and Syria.