News and Information

World leaders back Iraqi election
November 23, 2004
World leaders have ended a conference on the future of Iraq by declaring support for the 30 January elections.

Interim Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the elections would be held on time whatever the situation.

At the conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the elections were critical for ending the violence.

Among those in Egypt were the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the G8 nations and China.

At the end of the meeting, Mr Zebari said: "There will be no postponement of the elections which will take place in January at the date set. Whatever the situation."

Mr Annan called for nations to support the electoral process in Iraq to help create a "united and peaceful country".

The joint declaration adopted at the meeting sets no timetable for the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq despite the wishes of France and some Arab nations.

But it does stress that the mandate of US-led forces is not "open-ended" and countries should continue to help Iraqi security forces to take over.

The BBC's Peter Biles reports from Sharm-el-Sheikh that some Arab delegates, including Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, have made it clear they want to see a withdrawal of coalition troops by the end of next year.

The joint declaration also:

* condemns "all acts of terrorism in Iraq" as well as kidnappings and assassinations

* calls on the interim Iraqi government to deal "resolutely" with terrorism

* calls on all parties to avoid excessive force and exercise restraint to avoid hurting civilians

* highlights the "leading role" of the UN in helping Iraq prepare for elections and build consensus to write a new constitution

On the sidelines of the summit, those behind the Middle East "roadmap for peace" met over breakfast.

The US, United Nations, European Union and Russia discussed the prospects for peace following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mr Abul Gheit, who hosted the conference, said the two conflicts were tightly linked.

"Efforts to achieve stability in Iraq cannot be separated from strenuous efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East," he said, calling for a quick resolution of "the Palestine question".

The reconstruction of Iraq was also on the agenda. Nations have pledged about $30bn towards this task but only a fraction of that has been spent, mainly due to the ongoing security problems.

On the question of Iraq's border security, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he had held talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa in which he pressed Syria to do more to prevent fighters and money entering Iraq.

"The Syrians have taken some steps recently but we think there is a lot more they can do," Mr Powell told a news conference.

"We discussed... our desire to see more done on the border, to prevent the flow of terrorists and weapons and finances across the border. We discussed that rather directly."


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