Ahead of international conference on Iraq, Annan pledges steadfast UN support

From constitutional advice to help in holding new elections, from rebuilding schools and power plants to feeding children, from mine clearance to aid for hundreds of thousands of returning refugees and internally displaced persons, the United Nations is determined to stand by Iraq in its moment of continuing need, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has pledged.

"The Iraqi people continue to endure a painful and difficult transition, and they still have a long and tough road ahead," Mr. Annan said in an opinion piece released ahead of tomorrow's International Conference on Iraq in Brussels, Belgium, which the Secretary-General is to address.

"The United Nations is privileged and determined to walk it with them. In doing so, we serve not only the people of Iraq, but the peoples of all nations, who share a vital interest in the eventual emergence of a stable, peaceful and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East."

Noting that in a media hungry age where "visibility is often held out as proof of success," Mr. Annan stressed that UN efforts must often be undertaken quietly and away from the cameras, but the world body's response to the tortured nation's needs has been prompt and resolute.

He pointed to the donor coordination mechanism the UN has set up in Baghdad, its Support Unit for writing a new constitution, its role in reconstruction and development, and the more than 800 UN personnel, both local and international, of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) now serving inside a country racked by divisions.

But he warned: "Whether UN assistance proves effective will depend largely on the Iraqis themselves. Only they can write a constitution that is inclusive and fair. The United Nations cannot and will not draft it for them. Nor do we need to, because Iraqis are more than capable of doing it themselves. They would welcome advice, but will decide which advice is worth taking."

Turning to the need for accommodation between Iraq's diverse communities and the threat posed by elements wishing to exacerbate communal tensions by capitalizing on the serious difficulties faced by ordinary people and exploiting popular anger and resentment to promote hatred and violence, Mr. added: "I do not believe that security measures alone can provide a sufficient response to this situation.

"For such measures to be successful, they must be part of a broad based and inclusive strategy that embraces the political transition, development, human rights and institution-building, so that all Iraq's communities see that they stand to be winners in the new Iraq."

In aid of this transition, the UN is at work, both inside and outside the country, to support donor coordination, capacity-building of Iraqi ministries and civil society organizations, and delivery of basic services, Mr. Annan stressed.

"Reconstruction of schools, water treatment and waste treatment plants, power plants and transmission lines, food assistance to children, mine clearing and aid to hundreds of thousands of returning refugees and internally displaced persons - all of these activities occur every day in Iraq under UN leadership," he declared.