UN mulls bigger role in Iraq

By Xinhua

United Nations : UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would consider an expanded UN role and presence in Iraq if possible, according to a UN report.

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The quarterly report, submitted by the UN chief to the Security Council on the mission in Iraq, said the situation in that country remains precarious, with insurgent attacks persisting and civilian casualties mounting.

The political process in Iraq is entering an exceptionally sensitive phase, the report says, adding contentious issues, such as the referendum on Kirkuk and other disputed areas, must be approached carefully, with solutions found through sustained national dialogue.

"There have been growing calls for a larger United Nations role in Iraq," Ban said in the report. "Circumstance permitting, I would consider an expanded role and presence in Iraq where possible."

"For this, clear direction from the Security Council and the Government of Iraq would be essential," he added. "And better coordination with our major international partners would also be welcomed."

For the UN to play its role, he said several conditions are necessary, including adequate protection and security arrangements, air support and the construction of secure facilities.

He voiced hope that the Security Council and UN member states "will continue to provide strong political and logistical support for the organization's presence in Iraq."

Following the deadly bombing on the world body's headquarters in Baghdad on Aug 19, 2003, which killed 22 people including the top UN envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN cut back many of its activities in Iraq.