Coalition Applauds U.N. Initiative in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2004 Coalition officials in Baghdad expressed strong support today for a United Nations plan to send a team to evaluate the feasibility of holding direct elections before June 30.
Dan Senor, senior coalition spokesman, told reporters in Baghdad that he welcomes U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's announcement that he will dispatch a security team to Iraq. The team will assess the security situation on the ground to determine the feasibility of sending an electoral team.
Annan announced the plan today in Paris, where he is meeting with French President Jacques Chirac. His decision marks the most significant expansion of the United Nations' role in Iraq since most staffers left the country in late October due to security concerns.
Acknowledging that it is impossible to protect the United Nations team "everywhere, all the time," Senor said the Coalition Provision Authority will provide "all necessary measures to ensure the success and safety of the team" and will "cooperate fully as they move forward on this process."
Ironically, Senor's assurance was delivered during a briefing that was delayed for more than an hour after a bomb was discovered nearby. Details of the incident were not available at press time, and officials said the incident was still under investigation.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force 7, said the number of attacks but unfortunately not the number of casualties -- against coalition troops "has consistently and continuously gone down since about mid-November."
During the past week, Kimmitt said Iraqi insurgents have launched an average of 16 daily engagements against coalition military forces, just under four attacks daily against Iraqi security forces and just over one attack daily against Iraqi civilians.
Senor warned that the level of violence might actually increase as "the enemies of freedom" in Iraq "realize that we are getting closer and closer to handing over a sovereign, democratic Iraq to the Iraqi people."
The insurgents, he said, will attempt to undermine the process in hopes that they can "turn the clock back on Iraq and prevent this effort from moving forward."
Citing continued progress, including rapid improvements within the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, Senor said the insurgents have become desperate in their attempts to bring this forward momentum to a halt. "The enemies of freedom and the foreign fighters and the insurgents will try to stop it," he warned. "And the violence will continue. It will go down, but we should not be surprised if it continues."