20/10/2004

Iraqi elections on track but security must hold, says Annan

Elections in Iraq, scheduled for January 2005, are on track but should only take place if the situation holds, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said following a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street yesterday.

Speaking in London, where he held talks with Mr Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and other senior officials, Mr Annan said that elections would go ahead "if things go well and everyone does what they are supposed to do, and the environment holds".

He added that Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had told him that he was "determined to go ahead with the elections".

At a press conference, Mr Annan said: "I've indicated that any government with capacity and ability to help should do what they can to help stabilise Iraq so that they can get on with their lives. And I indicated that security is absolutely essential for us to carry on reconstruction and all the wonderful plans we have for Iraq."

A UN team is currently in Iraq working with the country's Independent Electoral Commission to set up the elections.

Following the talks, Mr Blair denied that a recent request from the US – that British troops should be move up to Baghdad and to relieve the pressure on American soldiers – would be dictated by the upcoming presidential elections.

The only elections that matter in relation to troop movements are the Iraqi elections next January, the Prime Minister said.

He also pledged to do whatever he could to help kidnapped aid worker Margaret Hassan.

Mr Blair spoke of his gratitude to the Secretary-General for his help and support on the Africa Commission.

"It is an issue that both of us feel passionately about. We think there is a chance of making real progress next year," he said.

Before holding a working lunch with Prime Minister Blair for talks on Iraq, Sudan, African development, climate change, Iran, and the Middle East, Mr Annan attended an audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

(gmcg/mb)

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