UN refuses to protect its own mission in Baghdad

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The United Nations has failed to organize a special force in Iraq with the limited mission of securing its own headquarters.

UN officials said member states refused to contribute to a proposed force that would protect a UN mission in Baghdad. The mission was meant to mark the return of the UN presence in Iraq after a year's absence and help organize and monitor national elections in January 2005.

The UN left Iraq in August 2003 in wake of an Al Qaida-inspired bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad. A UN report later blamed poor security for the success of the insurgency strike, which destroyed UN headquarters in Iraq.

Over the last few weeks, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan sought to establish a security force to protect the UN mission in Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. But Annan said nobody has pledged to commit troops.

"We haven't had much success attracting governments to sign up for the dedicated force to protect the UN personnel in Iraq and our property," Annan said. "So for the time being, for practical measures, we have no other choice but to rely on the multinational force."

Under the current arrangement, the U.S.-led coalition would provide protection for the UN mission in Baghdad. Annan did not say how many troops would be deployed.

The Security Council was scheduled to hold consultations on Wednesday to discuss the UN Mission in Iraq. In a report to the council, Annan said security remains the "over-riding constraint for all UN activity in Iraq."

"In recent months, the acting UN Security Coordinator assessed the risk to UN personnel in Iraq as being in the high to critical category," a UN statement said. "The UN Mission and UN agencies will therefore continue to limit their activities inside Iraq to the essential ones."

Several member states, including Pakistan, said the recurring suicide bombings in Iraq have prevented them from sending troops to that country. The United States has also encountered numerous rejections in a plan to organize an Arab and Islamic peace-keeping force in Iraq.

Annan has appointed Ashraf Jehangir Qazi the new special representative for Iraq. In August 2003, UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello was one of 22 people killed in the bombing of UN headquarters.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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