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UN special envoy demands Iran's help for Iraq Governing Council

UN special representative on Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello Thursday called on regional neighbors, including Iran, to support the Iraqi Governing Council in running the country, IRNA reported from Tehran.

President Mohammad Khatami, on his part, welcomed the Governing Council provided that it helps cede the power to the Iraqi people.

The Iranian president, who was talking to Vieira de Mello here, also demanded that the power would ultimately turn over to a national democratic authority from the transitional governing council under the UN auspices.

"The formation of the Governing Council in Iraq, if leads to the establishment of a popular government, is a step toward guaranteeing people's demands, but this council must not justify the occupation to continue," Khatami said.

The Iranian president said he was displeased with rising insecurity in Iraq and hoped that peace and stability would soon return to Iraq and the region with the establishment of a national government in that country.

Foreign troops would do good to themselves as well as the Iraqis and the rest of the region if they pull out from Iraq, Khatami said.

He reiterated Iran's support for UN engagement in various international issues as well as the Islamic Republic's readiness to help implement UN programs in the region successfully.

"The United Nations has been established in order to prevent wars and violence and establish peace in the world and (thus) it must be entrusted with a pivotal and guiding role in every issue," he said.

Khatami also hit out at the "improper performance" of US rulers with respect to the Iraq crisis and said, "American operations in Iraq served as a blow to the prestige of the United Nations and weakened this organization in the international scene."

Vieira de Mello outlined UN efforts in helping the Governing Council take shape and said, "If supported by the United Nations and Iraq's neighbors, this council could gain more authority."

"This council has been formed with the participation of various Iraqi groups at a national level and enjoys tangible authority for being the representative of the Iraqi people," he added.

In the meeting, attended by Iran's representative to the United Nations Mohammad Javad Zarif, Vieira de Mello hailed Iran's cooperation with and commitment to the United Nations.

The special representative of the UN secretary general also conveyed Kofi Annan's warm regards for President Khatami.

Vieira de Mello arrived here Thursday as part of a regional tour, which has already taken him to Syria and Saudi Arabia, both among Iraq's key neighbors.

The visit also marks a new phase in UN engagement in Iraq, where the international body had taken a back seat after US and Britain unleashed an invasion in March.

On Saturday, Vieira de Mello was in Riyadh, where he discussed Iraq's future with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

The special representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday.

He told reporters later that the transitional Governing Council in Iraq wants Syrian 'recognition and support'.

"I am conveying a request from the Governing Council that neighbors such as Syria should support them, should strengthen them, should recognize them, should even visit them," he was quoted as saying.

The consultations come as the US-led administration unveiled the Iraqi Governing Council this week to run the country amid rising resentment of the Iraqi people against the invaders.

Vieira de Mello is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council on the results of his tour in New York on July 22.

Iran, UNHCR to discuss repatriation of Iraqi refugees

Iran and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are to discuss repatriation of Iraqi refugees to their home country in the near future, a local official said Ahvaz, Khuzestan province on Wednesday, IRNA reported.

Managing Director of the provincial Bureau for Alien and Foreign Immigrant Affairs (BAFIA) Mohammad-Hossein Poravar added that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers and his accompanying delegation are expected to arrive here from Iraq on Monday.

During his one-day visit, the high commissioner will discuss with Iranian officials the condition of the Iraqi refugees and their repatriation through the Shalamcheh border point, southwest Iran, he said.

Poravar said Iran has announced readiness to return Iraqi refugees to their country under the supervision of the UN but so far the US and Britain have not yet voiced readiness to cooperate in this respect.

"Based on the Geneva Convention, the host countries could not prevent refugees willing to return to their home country even under hard conditions," he said, adding the refugees are eager to return to Iraq and participate in the reconstruction of their home land.

While in Iraq prior to coming to Iran, the UNHCR delegation is scheduled to hold talks with Iraqi authorities to pave the way for the return of Iraqi refugees. If head of the US-run provisional authority, Paul Bremer agrees with the repatriation issue, the first batch of refugees would be sent to Iraq on July 21.

He further put the number of Iraqi refugees residing in Iran at 230,000, of whom 80,000 are stationed in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

The UNHCR delegation is scheduled to visit Khuzestan governor general and inspect the Shahid Ashrafi Esfahani refugee camp in Dezful in this southwestern province.

... Payvand News - 7/17/03 ... --

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