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UN to Expand Mission's Role in Iraq
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The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Friday to approve a resolution to expand the role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) in the country's post-war reconstruction process.

The resolution, drafted by the United States and Britain, extends the mandate of the four-year-old UNAMI, whose current mandate expires on Friday, for another year.  

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, seen here in July 2007, said that the United Nations is "deeply committed" to helping the Iraqis after the Security Council unanimously agreed to expand the UN mission in Iraq.

It also requires the UN chief's special envoy and UNAMI to "advise, support and assist" Iraqis on "advancing their inclusive, political dialogue and national reconciliation."

The UN mission will also be tasked to help Iraqis hold elections, review their constitution, resolve disputed internal boundaries and plan a comprehensive census.

UNAMI will help facilitate "regional dialogue, including issues of border security, energy and refugees," and assist reintegration programs for former combatants.

The new mandate also authorizes the mission to help with the return of refugees, coordinate reconstruction and aid efforts, help promote economic reform and promote the protection of human rights and legal reform.

The resolution also recognizes the "important role" of the U.S.-led multinational force in "supporting UNAMI, including security and logistical support."

It further recognizes that "security is essential for UNAMI to carry out its work on behalf of the people of Iraq."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the council's decision and pledged the world body's commitment to helping the Iraqi people "in crucial areas such as national reconciliation, regional dialogue, humanitarian assistance and human rights."

"The United Nations looks forward to working in close partnership with the leaders and people of Iraq to explore how we can further our assistance under the terms of this resolution," Ban told the council after the vote.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said that the international community is deeply concerned with grave challenges that remain in Iraq's security sector.

The key to the ultimate and proper solution to the Iraqi issue lies in the achievement of "Iraqis governing Iraq," which can not be achieved without the earnest assistance from the regional countries and the international community, Wang said.

Wang pointed out that it will be a gradual process for UNAMI to play a role, and expressed hope that the Iraqi government and the multinational forces will provide necessary security guarantee so as to enable it to accomplish its mission.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said adoption of the resolution "marks an important new phase in the UN's role in Iraq," and that the United States will "continue to shoulder all of its responsibility to assist Iraq's government and people."

UNAMI, established by the Security Council through resolution 1500 adopted on Aug. 14, 2003, now maintains an international staff of some 50 people in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan withdrew all UN staff from Iraq after the UN's office in Baghdad was bombed in August 2003, killing 22 people including special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Annan allowed a small contingent of UN international staffers to return in August 2004 and imposed a ceiling of 35 people. Since then, the United Nations has maintained a low presence because of security concerns.

UNAMI has focused its work on helping promote dialogue, organize elections, draft constitution, coordinate humanitarian assistance and monitor human rights. But its daily operations have been severely restricted due to security reasons.

Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Lynne Pascoe said Tuesday that the United Nations may raise the ceiling for its international staff in Iraq from the current 65 to 95 by October.

The UN chief, in a June report to the Security Council, said he would "consider an expanded role and presence in Iraq where possible," and called for the "expeditious construction of a hardened integrated compound," in order to protect UN staff from risks of indirect rocket and mortar attacks in the Green Zone.
(Xinhua News Agency August 11, 2007)

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