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UN plays enhanced role in Iraq: official
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The United Nations is now playing an enhanced role in Iraq in accordance with an enlarged mandate authorized by the UN Security Council last year, a senior UN official said on Monday.

"While taking strict measures to deal with the security situation, the UN is playing an enhanced role in Iraq," Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe told a council meeting.

Since the 15-member body adopted resolution 1770 in last August, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has increased the UN presence in the capital Baghdad to 140 and in the northern city of Erbil to 40 international staff, Pascoe said.

Resolution 1770 expanded the world body's political role in Iraq, aimed at bringing together the strife-torn country's rival factions, gaining broader support from neighboring countries, and tackling the deepening humanitarian crisis.

The resolution marked a key policy change by the United Nations toward its role in Iraq, which has been largely restricted due to harsh security situation since the deadly bombings against its Baghdad office in 2003.

Pascoe said that an outreach program that places national liaison officers in each of the governor's offices has deployed 9 officers so far, and the UN has re-established its presence in the southern city of Basra.

Expanding the UN presence to Najaf, Ramadi and Kirkuk is currently being contemplated, he noted.

Despite improvements in security, the government continues to face "formidable challenges" in terms of national reconciliation, reconstruction and development, he said.

He also noted some political progress in recent months, including the passing of the Justice and Accountability Law, the general amnesty and the 2008 budget.

These political progress, together with security improvements, has provided a "window of opportunity," he said.

"Iraq is going through a painful transition," he added. "This is a long endeavor that requires the sustained support of the international community."

(Xinhua News Agency April 29, 2008)

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