August 8, 2008 / 8:30 AM / 9 years ago

UN Iraq mandate renewed; Baghdad wants more UN help

By Megan Davies

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 7 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to keep the United Nations mission in Iraq for another year, as Baghdad urged the world body to do more to help it transform into a functioning democracy.

Amid stalled provincial elections, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations said he would like the body to boost its presence and clout. Part of the organization's task in Iraq, he said, is to help sort out internal border disputes and aid dialogue with neighboring countries.

"There is a lot to do," Hamid al-Bayati told reporters.

The five-year-old U.N. mission in Iraq, known as UNAMI, is made up of more than 1,000 troops, civilian staff and security personnel. Its mandate was beefed up a year ago to give the body an expanded political role.

Extension of the mandate, due to expire Aug. 10, was unanimously approved by the 15-nation Security Council.

"Today's unanimous support for the extension of mandate is a recognition that what happened in Iraq is important for the world," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad. "Everyone wants Iraq to succeed and for the U.N. to play its role in helping Iraqis."

The resolution says security for U.N. staff in Iraq, where insurgents continue to attack U.S.-led foreign troops, is "essential." The U.N. mandate for international troops, which currently provides security protection for the U.N. staff, is set to expire in December.

Washington is negotiating a bilateral security agreement with Iraq to cover the period once the mandate for foreign troops expires and Bayati said an agreement was close on this.

U.N. officials have warned the United Nations is in the crosshairs of some militants and extremists who no longer see the world body as neutral.

Still fresh in the minds of diplomats and staff is a truck-bomb attack which destroyed the U.N. office in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003, killing 22 people. The blast led to a temporary withdrawal of U.N. staff from Iraq.

But security has improved dramatically since that day, Bayati said, adding that the government has also allocated a parcel of land in Baghdad to the U.N. for a new base there.

"The Iraqi forces now are much stronger than then," Bayati said. "They proved they are reliable." (Editing by Todd Eastham)




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