Secretary-General Kofi Annan has communicated to key players his intention to dispatch United Nations officials to Iraq to help with the transfer of sovereignty later this year.
"I have written to the Security Council and to the Iraqi Governing Council and the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] advising them that I do intend to send a team back to Baghdad, led by [Special Adviser Lakhdar] Brahimi, to work with the Iraqis on the political transitional arrangements leading to the formation of a government on June 30th," Mr. Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York today.
The Secretary-General's decision came in response to letters from the President of the Iraqi Governing Council, Mohammed Bahr Al-Uloom, and CPA Administrator L. Paul Bremer, who have also requested UN assistance with the preparation of direct elections before the end of January 2005.
In transmitting the letters to the President of the Security Council, the Secretary-General says he will ask Mr. Brahimi and his aides as well as an electoral assistance team to return to Iraq as soon as possible.
Responding to press questions today, the Secretary-General noted that several options for the political transition are under consideration. Mr. Brahimi, he said, would discuss these widely with the Iraqis in an effort to forge a consensus on the most viable course of action.
The envoy, asked about the role of the United States in backing Iraq's request, stressed that "we are not looking for a job and we are not dying to go to Iraq, and that if the United Nations is not needed, I think that is perfect from our point of view."
At the same time, he noted that, "from everything we know, the overwhelming majority of the people of Iraq, within and outside of the Governing Council, are really demanding and pressing the United Nations to come back to play a role."
In conjunction with the anniversary of the Iraq war, Mr. Annan was asked about the world body's relevance in helping the country. "The UN has a unique legitimacy no other organization has," he pointed out. "The UN has a capacity of bringing countries from around the world to work together and, in fact, most governments have indicated, as much as they are interested in helping see peace and stability in Iraq, would want to do it through the UN."
"That's an affirmation of their trust and belief in the Organization," he added.
Mr. Annan also stressed the capacity of the Iraqi people to help themselves. "When we talk of the UN, we're talking of the international community, donor community, the neighbours of Iraq, all of us coming together and working with the Iraqi people to make Iraq a peaceful, stable and democratic country."