UK expects expanded UN mandate in Iraq

( AP ) - Britain said Thursday that it expects quick approval of a resolution that would expand the U.N. mandate in Iraq to promote political reconciliation, settle disputed internal boundaries, and plan for a national census.

"I think it will get voted early next week," British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said. "There's no problem on it - it's straight forward."

Britain circulated the resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, to other Security Council members Wednesday and council experts, who went over the text, were expected to meet again Friday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been under pressure from the United States to expand the U.N.'s role in Iraq and said in June he would consider it. But he cited deteriorating security in Iraq as an obstacle.

"We want the U.N. to play a more enhanced role with regard to internal reconciliation and regional cooperation," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Thursday. "I am pleased that a draft resolution embracing that idea is making progress in discussions among experts."

"We believe that the U.N. can help Iraqis ... come to an agreement on these big issues on which there are differences and that includes issues such as provincial boundaries that are in dispute," he said.

Asked whether that included Kirkuk, the oil-rich city whose control is disputed by its Kurdish, Arab and ethnic Turkish populations, Khalilzad said Kirkuk's future was "one of the big issues as well."

The small U.N. Mission in Iraq has helped organize elections, promote a national dialogue, and develop institutions for representative government. Its current mandate expires Aug. 10.

The draft would extend the mission's mandate for a year and authorize it to facilitate "regional dialogue, including on issues of border security, energy and refugees."

The mission would also "advise, support and assist the people and government of Iraq on advancing an inclusive national dialogue and political reconciliation."

The draft resolution would authorize the U.N. mission to help plan, fund and implement reintegration programs for former combatants, assist the return of refugees and displaced people, and promote economic reform and the development of an effective civil service and social services.

The U.N. mission would also promote human rights and judicial and legal reforms "in order to strengthen the rule of law" and to assist the government "on initial planning for a comprehensive census."

Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan pulled all U.N. international staff out of Iraq in October 2003 after two bombings at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and a spate of attacks on humanitarian workers. The first bombing, on Aug. 19, 2003, killed the top U.N. envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others.

In August 2004, Annan allowed a small U.N. contingent to return to Baghdad and imposed a ceiling of 35 international staffers, which has steadily increased but remains relatively low.

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