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UN holds high-level meeting on Iraq
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The United Nations kicked off on Saturday afternoon a high-level meeting on Iraq in a bid to bolster international support for the country.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki were co-chairing the two-hour session.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Ban said that "There was a very positive and supportive tone from all the participants at the meeting. And there was strong Iraqi support for an enhanced UN role within the framework of the new mandate in Security Council Resolution 1770."

"This meeting has helped to promote a stronger partnership between the international community and Iraq. The United Nations is committed to supporting this partnership," he said at the joint press conference with al-Maliki.

Ban has pointed out that the United Nations maintains several distinct comparative advantages in Iraq, saying it enjoys good relations with a wide range of actors from across the political spectrum.

"We are prepared to do more in an effort to advance inclusive political dialogue, including through constitutional review, as well as political facilitation and national reconciliation."

Responding to questions, Ban said that the United Nations is well-placed to help Iraq but cautioned that any expansion of its presence there would be contingent on security condition.

He said a "modest" increase in the number of staff in Iraq will be made as soon as facilities are ready to accommodate them in safety and security.

There will be an increase in the number of staff in Erbil in northern Iraq, and the UN is considering adding a presence in Basra, the second largest city in south Iraq, Ban said.

In addition, the UN chief said that following preparatory talks earlier this month, he also proposed the establishment of a "support office" in Baghdad to facilitate coordination between Iraq and neighboring countries.

The proposal has met with positive responses, he said, anticipating that it would be finalized at a planned expanded ministerial meeting to be held next month in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Saturday meeting, convened by the United Nations and Iraq, was attended by ministers or representatives from 20 countries, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council --Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and eight neighbors of Iraq -- Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey.

Zhai Jun, China's assistant foreign minister, attended the meeting.

Also present at the meeting were U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Foreign Ministers Ahmed Gheit of Egypt, Manouchehr Mottaki of Iran, Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Ali Babacan of Turkey as well as European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Representatives from Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan, as well as the European Union, the European Commission, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the World Bank andthe International Monetary Fund are also invited as observers.

(Xinhua News Agency September 23, 2007)

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