( dpa )- The United States said Monday that al-Qaeda militants have been weakened in Iraq, contributing to an overall decline in hostilities there along with other factors, like the effective ceasefire declared by Shiite leader Moqtada al- Sadr .
Steffan de Mistura , the UN envoy for Iraq, told the Security Council there had been a "notable decline" in hostilities, a result he said was boosted by the cumulative effect of an increase in US troops, al- Sadr's ceasefire and the role of Iraq's Awakening Councils.
He did not address the role of al-Qaeda insurgents during a public debate of the 15-nation UN Security Council on the situation in Iraq.
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters the situation in Iraq has "improved significantly because al-Qaeda is weakened, which in part was helped by the cooperation with Sunni Arab tribe, which in turn has produced significant change."
Khalilzad called the ceasefire declared by al- Sadr "effective," but said the most important factor in the weakening of al-Qaeda has been a new strategy followed by the US and its allies in the multinational forces.
The surge in the number of troops to Iraq has strengthened the forces fighting insurgents. The US-led multinational forces have more than 160,000 military personnel.
"Dozens of the al-Qaeda leadership have been killed and many others from this terrorist organization, which sought to provoke sectarian strife in Iraq were detained," the Iraqi UN ambassador, Hamid al- Bayati , said.
Al- Bayati said efforts by Iraqi political and religious leaders also led to the ceasefire by the militias.
He asked all governments to reopen their embassies in Iraq now that the security situation has significantly improved.
Khalilzad and de Mistura said military progress should be backed by political reconciliation and economic reconstruction.
The UN said Iraq's neighbours have also worked on security-related issues to help achieve the "notable decline" in violence, de Mistura said.
"We cannot ignore the recent improvements both in the security and political situation in Iraq," he said, but warned that the main challenges in the war-torn country remain "largely unaltered."
De Mistura said the Iraqi government has taken long-overdue steps toward national reconciliation and inclusive political dialogue, including the adoption on January 12 of the Justice and Accountability Law and increased dialogue with the Sunni Arab bloc.
The government has also signalled its intention this year to demonstrate its ability to administer a state that enjoys "the broadest support and can deliver basic services and security guarantees, all the while supported by credible and independent institutions."
De Mistura pledged UN cooperation in various fields, ranging from the return of refugees and economic reconstruction to addressing health issues like cholera.