The U.N. Security Council has extended the United Nations mission in Iraq for a second year. But, concerns about security still cloud the mission's future.
The vote to continue the so-called UNAMI mission in Iraq was unanimous. But the role of the U.N. mission remains very much in doubt.
The vote came nearly a year after the terrorist attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed mission chief Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others. A second attack later in the year prompted the withdrawal of all non-Iraqi U.N. employees.
Only in recent weeks has Secretary-General Kofi Annan taken the first few tentative steps toward re-establishing a major U.N. presence in the country.
After Thursday's vote, Pakistan's ambassador, Munir Akram, made clear that, while the decision may have been unanimous, it was not enthusiastic.
"This was a necessary decision to extend mandate of UNAMI," he said. "The mandate was to be reviewed in one year, and, therefore, it had to be extended."
In a report issued last Friday, Secretary-General Annan pointed out that the United Nations remains a "high value" target for attacks for the foreseeable future.
Mr. Annan has dispatched small teams to Baghdad in recent weeks to handle specific tasks, but the majority of the mission's staff operates from offices in nearby Jordan and Kuwait.
A team led by the secretary-general's newly-appointed Special Representative for Iraq, Pakistani diplomat Ashraf Qazi, will be in Baghdad for a national political conference to begin Sunday.
Security Council Representative Akram says Thursday's resolution emphasizes the world body's continuing commitment to supporting Iraq's transition to democracy.
"This is obviously an indication of the continued commitment of United Nations and of the Security Council to play a role in bringing peace and stability to Iraq," he said. "Of course, the exact nature of the role will have to be determined ? as circumstances permit, and, obviously, that decision will have to be made by secretary-general, with regard to the exact role the U.N. would play as the situation evolves."
Ambassador Akram noted, however, that the world body is having a difficult time arranging security for its staff in Iraq.
Secretary-General Annan has been trying for months to persuade countries to contribute troops for a U.N. protection force. Last week, he admitted that, so far, no offers of help had been made. For the meantime, the world body will have to depend on the U.S.-led multinational force and Iraqi troops for their security.