Press Releases

    SG/SM/9612
    IK/464
    24 November 2004

    Secretary-General Calls for Incentives to Persuade Various Iraqi Groups to Participate in National Reconciliation Process

    International Community Must Unite Around Mission of Supporting Political Transition, He Says

    NEW YORK, 23 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the International Conference on Iraq in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, today, 23 November:

    I thank the Government of Egypt for convening this conference, which comes at a truly critical hour in the history of Iraq.

    Today, the people of Iraq are uppermost in my thoughts. They have suffered through decades of brutal misrule and devastating wars. They are once again being tested by fire, enduring the agony of a violent transition. Acts of violence and terror are being committed against them, and against aid workers too, and they are caught in the cross-fire of deadly conflict.

    But the Iraqi people have been tested before. Who can doubt that they have the courage and the ability to triumph over the challenges that beset them today? The Iraqi people want a better future for their country, and they are determined to achieve it.

    They, and every peace-loving nation, share a compelling stake in building a stable and united Iraq, at peace with itself and in a peaceful region.  A nation that reflects the religious and ethnic diversity of its people. A country where all citizens feel that they can participate on an equal footing in shaping their common future. An Iraq whose wounds are healed through an inclusive, participatory and transparent political process, that encompasses national security, political inclusiveness and economic justice.

    The elections due to be held in January are a critical part of Iraq’s transition. They are being conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which the United Nations is advising and supporting.  It is critically important that they take place in a conducive environment.

    The widespread insecurity in Iraq, including indiscriminate acts of terror, is the greatest impediment to a successful transition process.  Restoring security is essential.  The Iraqi authorities have the right, indeed the duty, to maintain law and order throughout their territory. Nobody can expect them to give in to terror.  However, they may wish to weigh the broader impact on the transition process of the actions they may take.

    As we approach the elections, every effort must be made to provide incentives for the various Iraqi groups to participate in a national reconciliation process -- one based on dialogue and a willingness to reach out and address legitimate concerns and grievances. The broadest possible spectrum of Iraqi opinion must be persuaded to see a shared interest in realizing the potential of a united and peaceful country.

    The countries of the region share a stake in a stable and prosperous Iraq.  They should take the lead in helping to normalize Iraq’s regional and international relations, based on the principles of the United Nations Charter:  non-interference, sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and national unity.

    And the international community as a whole must come together, within the framework of Security Council resolution 1546.  We must unite around the mission of supporting the political transition in Iraq.  That is the best way to ensure that a sovereign, secure and self-confident Iraq takes its place in the region, and indeed becomes a beacon to other nations.

    In that spirit, the United Nations is committed to helping Iraq. We are implementing our Security Council mandate as circumstances permit, in accordance with the resolution. My Special Representative is working with the Iraqi Interim Government and the Iraqi people, and additional staff are being deployed in the country. We cannot ignore the security risks.  But nor must we let them deter us from doing all we can, under prevailing circumstances, to help the Iraqi people.

    The UN’s commitment to Iraq did not begin with the current crisis. Nor will it end any time soon.  We did our utmost, under difficult conditions, to help Iraqis form an interim government and an electoral commission. We are working today to coordinate international aid and to assist Iraq’s electoral authorities. And we will be at the side of Iraq in the future. The measure of our success is not the number of staff we have in Iraq. It is the degree to which we translate our commitment into effective support for Iraq’s transition. With support from both inside and outside Iraq, I am confident we can do our part in helping the Iraqi people.

    Today, we must send a united message to the Iraqi people:  the international community believes in you.  We are determined to help you succeed.

    And to that end, we should today put in place a mechanism to make sure that our fine words are translated into common action.

    Let Iraqis come together as one people. Let the nations of this region and the world come together to help them. And let us all work towards one goal: a stable Iraq, a peaceful Iraq, a democratic Iraq -- a new Iraq.

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