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Saturday, November 12, 2005

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Annan urges Iraq reconciliation

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Annan urges Iraq reconciliation Annan urges Iraq reconciliation
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has stressed the importance of national reconciliation in Iraq as he made a surprise visit to Baghdad.

His comments came after talks with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and other Iraqi leaders.

He arrived as the latest car bombing killed at least four people and injured 19 in an attack near a market.

Iraq's US-backed interim government is battling a mainly Sunni insurgency that has killed thousands of people.

Iraq is going through a critical political transition. This political transition must be all-inclusive
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

Mr Jaafari said earlier that reports of the death of one of Saddam Hussein's closest aides would - if confirmed - have "a positive effect on Iraqis and a negative effect on terrorism".

Iraq's former ruling Baath party released a statement on Friday announcing the death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri of natural causes.

Mr Douri, 63, was the most senior figure in the ousted regime still at large. The US had offered a $10m reward for information leading to his capture.

Message for Sunnis

Mr Annan was in Baghdad ahead of next month's planned general election that will replace the transitional government.

"The idea is that reconciliation is absolutely essential in Iraq," Mr Annan said at a joint news conference with Mr Jaafari.

"I don't think anyone would argue with that."

Mr Annan backed an Arab League reconciliation initiative which begins with a conference in Cairo in a week's time and also envisages a broad-based peace conference for Iraq in January.

Mr Annan also met a Sunni delegation.

The message from him is that the outside world fully supports the Iraqi political process and really wants the Sunnis to get on board, isolating the hardcore of the Sunni-based insurgency, reports BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.

Car bomb

Mr Annan's visit to Iraq - his first since the US-led invasion in 2003 - follows separate trips by UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in recent days.

The UN pulled out of Iraq after a bomb at UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 killed 22 people, including envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The latest car bomb attack took place in the south-eastern New Baghdad area.

Eyewitnesses said the explosion sparked fires in several shops in the busy market, trapping people inside.

Eyewitness Ali Saleh told Reuters news agency: "A car parked near a pharmacy suddenly blew up and we saw smoke and people started running.

"Women were searching for their children. The shrapnel flew everywhere, the force of the blast was so strong."
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