U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Monday
that Iraq could be heading for full-scale civil war if current levels of
violence continue. He spoke at a meeting on the Iraq situation at the
United Nations that included a pledge by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to
demobilize militias and rid government security forces of what he termed
The high-level Iraq meeting at U.N. headquarters brought together
senior officials from around the world including U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice. And it featured some of the bleakest rhetoric to date
from United Nations chief Kofi Annan about prospects for the war-torn
Delivering brief public comments at a meeting that
later continued behind closed doors, the secretary-general called it
"absolutely heartbreaking" that despite progress in its political
transition, Iraq's everyday life is dominated by the constant threat of
sectarian violence and civil strife
Speaking on a day that saw dozens more Iraqis killed in attacks, Mr.
Annan said peace in Iraq can still be salvaged but that the country hangs
dangerously close to a full civil war. "Iraq and its leaders are now at an
important crossroads. If they can address the needs and common interests
of all Iraqis, the promise of peace and prosperity is still within reach.
But if current patterns of alienation and violence persist much longer,
there is a grave danger that the Iraqi state will break down, possibly in
the midst of a full-scale civil war," he said.
The U.N. chief said Iraq can still be, as he put it, brought back from the
brink if the Baghdad government is able to promote national
reconciliation and draw the necessary support from the international
community, including its immediate neighbors.
Speaking for Iraq, President Jalal Talibani insisted that despite the
turmoil and death, the government's U.S.-supported Baghdad security plan
is showing signs of success, amid what he said was a marked drop in
reported incidents of violence in the last month.
Heard through an interpreter, Mr. Talibani said the government is committed to the principles of
democratic civilian control of the security forces and "one-state,
one-army," and intends to move against militias and what he conceded are
rogue elements opering with the security forces. "Designing and
implementing a plan for the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration
of militias: this is also a priority. This shall include retraining and
creating employment opportunity for members of militias and other armed
groups. The government also recognizes that the infiltration of the
security ministries by criminal elements and members of terrorist groups
represents a major challenge," he said.
Mr. Talabani, the senior Kurdish member of the Iraqi government, said
the current administration's aim is a decentralized federal system within
a united democratic Iraq.
Proclaiming Iraq's interest in good relations with its neighbors, the
president said Iraq will not allow its territory to be used against the
interest of any neighbor but neither would it allow any interference in
its internal affairs.
The meeting here was aimed at advancing the International Compact for
Iraq, an initiative launched in July aimed at helping the country achieve
financial independence within five years.