The Iraqi government still needs international assistance to
help tackle remaining challenges in the new year despite recent
improvements in Iraq's security and political situation, U.N.
special envoy in Iraq Staffan De Mistura said Monday.
"We cannot ignore the recent improvements both in the security
and political situation in Iraq," the new special representative
for that country told the Security Council.
The year 2008 was a window of opportunity for Iraq, but its
government could not be left alone to tackle the structural,
political and security challenges it faced, despite recent
improvements, he said.
De Mistura, who heads the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq
attributed the "notable decline" in violence to increased
deployment of multinational force troops, the cease-fire declared
by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and increased cooperation with
However, "absent a political consensus on the most foundational
elements of the Iraqi State -- currently tenuous -- the Iraqis
would achieve no lasting solution on the reduction of violence," he
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad briefed the council on behalf
of the US-led multinational force in Iraq.
The number of security incidents had fallen to early 2005 levels
and monthly attacks against civilians and security forces had been
reduced by 60 percent since June 2007, thanks to the decreased
capabilities of Al-Qaida and the increased capacity of the Iraqi
and military police, Khalilzad said.
Speakers in the ensuing debate welcomed progress made in the
security sector, but warned that such progress was fragile and
should be supported by progress in the political area.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said warned that declaring
victory was premature because there were no guarantees that
reductions in violence would continue.
"The wave of violence which has swept the country recently
confirms our fears," he said.
Churkin also expressed concern about private security companies,
which operated outside of international humanitarian law.
In a report released last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-
moon said that although attacks in Iraq have decreased, insecurity
continues to severely limit the activities of the United Nations
mission there, while the political situation has not improved as
much as had been hoped.
(Xinhua News Agency January 22, 2008)