Iraq

UN envoy to Iraq meets with grand ayatollah Al-Sistani and Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr

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United Nations efforts in Iraq were the focus of separate meetings in Najaf today between the world body's top envoy to the country and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani as well as Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al- Sadr.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, Ashraf Qazi, conveyed his sincere condolences for the recent loss of the Grand Ayatollah's aide, Sheikh Hashim Attiyah al- Fadhli, and for other killings in recent months and weeks.

Mr. Qazi briefed the Grand Ayatollah al Sistani on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), including the work of the electoral team, the office of constitutional support and UNAMI's efforts to facilitate dialogue among all parties in Iraq.

The Grand Ayatollah thanked Mr. Qazi and encouraged the UN to continue to play an active role in facilitating dialogue. The two leaders also discussed the ongoing constitution-making process, and modalities for the December elections.

Many of these same points were echoed in the UN envoy's meeting with Moqtada al --Sadr. They discussed the importance of dialogue among all Iraqi parties for the peaceful transition to a sovereign and independent Iraq. Mr. Qazi also informed the Muslim cleric about UN efforts in the areas of reconstruction, humanitarian assistance and development.

The Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr acknowledged that the UN had an important role to play in Iraq, and asked Mr. Qazi to continue his efforts to promote dialogue and understanding.