01/28/2004, 00.00
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Baghdad nuncio says UN can play watchdog

by Pierre Balanian
An interview with Msgr. Fernando Filoni, Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, announced yesterday in Paris that a group of experts is expected to be sent to Iraq on Jan. 30 to verify the possibility of having elections before the transition of power to Iraqi citizens. 

The request for the UN's mediation was proposed by Shiite ayatollah Al-Sistani, the Provisional Governing Council (PGC) and by civil governor, Paul Bremer.

The United Nations experts will also evaluate guarantees for the security and safety for its staff before reopening offices in the country, which were shut last October. Last Aug. 19 the UN offices in Baghdad were the object of a terrorist attack, costing the lives of 22 persons, among whom was UN special envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

AsiaNews asked the Holy See's representative in Baghdad, Msgr. Fernando Filoni , for his comments on the situation.   


Your Excellency, Kofi Annan accepted sending a group of observers to Iraq. What might the role of this organization be in this chapter of the country's history?

Let me first say that the news we have is sketchy. At any rate, Al Sistani has for quite some time sought the UN's involvement in Iraq's future. Sayyed Al Sistani is the most important Marja'a (chief spiritual leader) on  the council of ayatollahs in Najaf. Kofi Annan's decision is an attempt to resolve the election issue. It is clear that at this time the United Nations and Kofi Annan, in sending two persons, are above all coming to explore and check out the situation. But I don't think it's about having a veritable presence (in Iraq).  If this leads to a resolution of problems, it is of course a positive thing.   

What might be the UN's role at this point in time?

It might play the role of watchdog between local positions and the Anglo-American administration in Iraq, that which some define as an "occupying" government.  The UN could act as their intermediary. In a certain sense, Vieira de Mello himself was committed to this form of mediation, before being killed. 


In order to return to Baghdad the UN is looking for guarantees of its own security …What is your opinion on this issue?

Security is a precarious thing for one and all, as it is also for Iraqis in the everyday lives. Every day many Iraqis die, due to attacks in which they are directly or indirectly involved. Security is also precarious for embassies and soldiers –for everyone. Right now there is no is remedy for such uncertainty.   

In your opinion is it possible to have elections prior to a transition of power to Iraqi citizens, as ayatollah Al-Sistani claims?

It's not about whether elections are feasible or not, but about working to prepare for democracy. It is true that he (Al Sistani) is attempting to push the issue along these lines so that its end result is not merely that which is desired by the Americans. In this way, they won't be blamed for conniving (citizens) or endorsing ideas decided only by others.   


How are Iraqis dealing with the problem?

I think that the Iraqi people have so many problems in terms of practical and daily activities. They cannot dedicate themselves to ideas surrounding such issues. Protests are organized by persons using the masses who follow them because of special interests.
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