- Title: IRAQ: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon makes suprise visit
- Date: 7th February 2009
- Summary: BAGHDAD, IRAQ (FEBRUARY 6, 2009) (AGENCY POOL) (*** BEWARE SOME FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY ***) U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON SEATED WITH IRAQI PRESIDENT JALAL TALABANI VARIOUS OF BAN KI-MOON AND TALABANI SEATED VARIOUS OF OFFICIALS SEATED (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON, SAYING: ''I am here to convey best wishes from the United Nations for all the successful achievements which you made during this last election. My sincere congratulations and 'mabruk' (congratulations) to all Iraqi people and government.'' DELEGATES SEATED (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON, SAYING: ''You have come such a long way but still you have to go a far way to say that you will fully be able to enjoy genuine freedom, and security, and prosperity. That is what the United Nations is committed to work together with you.'' BAN AND TALABANI STANDING AND SHAKING HANDS
- Embargoed: 22nd February 2009 12:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA51NVSU8F13DYUTXBNYUVHEW1G
- Story Text: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Friday (February 6), where the United Nations suffered one of its greatest tragedies when its offices were blown up 5-1/2 years ago.
Ban met Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a minority Kurd, at his heavily fortified home.
''I am here to convey best wishes from the United Nations for all the successful achievements which you made during this last election. My sincere congratulations and 'mabruk' to all Iraqi people and government," Ban said, using the Arabic word for "congratulations", as he was seated in a gilded chair alongside a smiling Talabani.
Ban's second official visit to Baghdad followed a trip to Afghanistan, another battlefield in the U.S. "war on terrorism" launched by former President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks, and to India and Pakistan.
Saturday's (January 31) provincial elections in Iraq were the most peaceful since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 unleashed years of sectarian bloodshed and insurgency.
Ban's last visit to Baghdad in March 2007 was jarred by a rocket that struck a building near where he and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki were giving a news conference.
The United Nations operates under heavy security and maintains a relatively low profile in Iraq, a legacy of a truck bomb that destroyed its Baghdad headquarters in August 2003, killing U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and other U.N. staff.
Iraq in early 2009 is a very different place. Attacks have dropped dramatically across the country and Iraqi forces are assuming ever-greater control of security ahead of a U.S. withdrawal that must take place by the end of 2011.
The elections last week to select leaders in 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces were held without a single major militant attack, seen as a major accomplishment in itself.
"You have come such a long way but still you have to go a far way to say that you will fully be able to enjoy genuine freedom, and security, and prosperity. That is what the United Nations is committed to work together with you,'' said Ban.
Preliminary results released on Thursday (February 5) showed that allies of Maliki, whose law-and-order message resonated with voters, scored spectacular gains across Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim south.
Elsewhere in the country, once dominant Sunni Arabs who boycotted Iraq's last local polls in 2005 regained political power in areas where their exclusion from local politics had fuelled resentment and a lingering insurgency.
But Iraqi security remains fragile.
Violence is still rife in parts of the country, such as the ethnically mixed city of Mosul in the north, a final urban haven for al Qaeda, and in Diyala province in the northeast, where a suicide bomber on Thursday killed 15 people.
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