UNITED NATIONS – The Security Council voted unanimously Friday to expand the U.N. role in Iraq and opened the door for the world body to promote talks to ease Iraq’s sectarian bloodshed.
The broader U.N. initiatives on Iraq – which could begin next month – were supported by Washington in an apparent bid to bring together Iraqi factions and neighboring countries under an international umbrella rather than struggling on its own to bridge the many religious, ethnic and strategic battles opened by the five-year-old war.
The Bush administration is also seeking ways to boost the embattled government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has been paralyzed by internal political feuds.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hopes to organize a meeting of foreign ministers from the region at U.N. headquarters in late September on the sidelines of an annual General Assembly meeting. The United Nations will also be urging discussions among different Iraqi factions, ethnic and religious groups, he said.
The resolution authorizes the United Nations – at the request of the Iraqi government – to promote political talks among Iraqis, a regional dialogue on issues including border security, energy and refugees, as well as help tackling the country’s worsening humanitarian crisis, which has spilled into neighboring countries.
The United States and Britain, co-sponsors of the resolution, believe the world body should do more to use its perceived neutrality to promote dialogue on Iraq.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. envoy to Iraq, has said, for example, that Iraq’s top Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, won’t talk to the Americans but he will talk to the U.N. envoy, Ashraf Qazi.
But Khalilzad stressed that the resolution is not a substitute for the U.S. commitment to Iraq.
“The United States will continue to shoulder all of its responsibilities to assist Iraq’s government and people,” he said.