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'Critical time' for Iraq as US withdraws

25 October 2011, 09:05

Baghdad - Iraq faces a "very critical time" as US forces leave, the United Nations envoy to Baghdad said on Monday, calling on Iraqis to work together to address the myriad challenges the country faces.

"We are in a very critical time, a very important period and phase of the history of Iraq, after the announcement of President [Barack] Obama... to withdraw troops completely," Martin Kobler, the UN secretary general's special representative for Iraq, told a news conference.

Obama said on October 21 that all American troops will leave Iraq by the end of 2011, bringing to a close a war that has stretched for over eight years.

"Many are already speculating about what will happen in Iraq come January the first," he said in a speech on Monday at a ceremony marking the 66th anniversary of the UN's founding.

"Yes, [it] may be there will be challenges ahead. But I do see a tremendous opportunity for Iraqis to prove to the world that they are able to deliver on the commitment they made to themselves and the international community to ensure a democratic, stable, peaceful and prosperous Iraq."

"It is an opportunity for all Iraqis to come together and build the Iraq they can be proud of," Kobler said.

During the news conference, he emphasised the importance of dialogue between Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region and the central government, which are at odds over control of swathes of north Iraq.

"Wherever there is a chance to support the dialogue between Baghdad and Arbil, we are doing it," he said, referring to the capital of the Kurdistan region.

"The question of the ... disputed internal boundaries is a very important one," he said, adding that one of the UN's main focuses "will be the Baghdad-Arbil relations."

He also said that "for the government of Iraq, it's very important to improve relations with Kuwait" so it can exit "the Chapter VII resolutions".

Sanctions against Iraq were imposed following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.



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