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Iraq Appeals for International Troops Before January Elections - 2004-09-14

The United States and Iraq have issued an appeal at the U.N. Security Council for more help in establishing a democratically elected government in Baghdad. The plea was received in silence.

On a day when scores died in a car bombing in Baghdad, Iraq's U.N. representative came to the Security Council seeking help in preparing the country for elections.

In sharply worded speech, Ambassador Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi described the 35 U.N. personnel currently in Iraq as 'inadequate" for the job. He chided the world body for its reluctance to send more help, and suggested the absence of sufficient numbers of U.N. elections experts is aiding those opposed to democracy.

"It is a fact that Iraq needs the technical support of the U.N. to hold elections," he said. "We know that. The U.N. knows that. The countries represented at this table and beyond know that. And so do the terrorists. They are determined, at any cost, to prevent this vital assistance from going forward. They must not succeed."

U.S. Ambassador John Danforth also addressed the Council, calling news of the latest bombing in Baghdad a "setback." Afterward, he expressed frustration that the international community's reluctance to help in providing security for Iraq was complicating efforts to institute the reforms that will make the country safer in the long run.

"Right now, because of the security situation, the U.N. is not as robustly present as all of us would like, so it's a circle," he said. "We need to establish democracy through the election, we need to have the U.N. present, we need to have the security for the U.N. And the plea we made today was that the rest of world participate in providing the kind of security for U.N. personnel that makes it possible for them to do their job fully."

But response to the U.S. and Iraqi plea for help has been meager. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said he could not name a single country that had offered to provide troops to protect U.N. staff.

"I can tell you that the extensive search for contributors of security elements to protect U.N. personnel in Iraq and the U.N. compound in Iraq have not to date produced any definitive agreements with donors," said Mr. Eckhard. "In fact, we are talking to one or more potential contributors, but no deal has been struck and as of today we have no contributor of these security elements."

Despite the lack of security force contributions, Iraqi Ambassador al-Istrabadi told the Council "genuine progress" has been made in re-integrating the country into the community of nations.

He lashed out at what he called Euro-American pundits who predicted Iraq would descend into inter-ethnic strife, saying they had been proven wrong.

"Whatever other problems Iraqis may now be experiencing, a civil war a la the former Yugoslavia is not one of them," he noted. "Unchastened by their prior error, many of these same pundits now call for the de facto dissolution of the country along ethnic and confessional lines. They were wrong before and they are wrong now."

Speaking to reporters after his speech, Ambassador Istrabadi angrily criticized coverage of Iraq in Western media. He pointed in particular to the recent focus on the 1000 U.S. military deaths since last year's invasion.

He said what is forgotten is the toll on Iraqis. He estimated that for every U.S. soldier killed, 15 to 20 Iraqis die, many of them civilians killed in terrorist attacks.