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INTERIM PRESIDENT

Yawer demands help from UN for elections

BAGHDAD -- Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer demanded more help from the United Nations ahead of the country's Jan. 30 elections, saying yesterday that poor security was no excuse for the world body to stay away.

The UN is advising Iraq's electoral commission on the vote and recently increased the ceiling on its international staff in Baghdad from 35 to 59, including more than 20 election specialists.

But UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said security remains a problem. Annan pulled all UN international staff out of Iraq in October 2003, after two bombings at the world body's headquarters in Baghdad -- the first of which killed the top UN envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others.

Yawer told the Al-Arabiya network that so far he was not satisfied with the UN response and asked the UN to play a bigger and ''more effective" role.

''They can say that the security situation is unstable, but the security situation is also unstable in other countries," Yawer said. ''They can ask countries or the multinational forces to protect them in this stage, but this is a responsibility and they have to shoulder this responsibility."

The election is for a 275-member assembly that will appoint a government and draft a permanent constitution. If adopted in a referendum next year, the constitution would form the legal basis for another general election to be held by Dec. 15, 2005.

While Shiite Muslims back the vote, many Sunni Arab Muslims have demanded a postponement because of the strength of Iraq's insurgency. The registration has yet to even begin in some Sunni-dominated areas where the insurgency is strongest.

Yawer also defended Annan from recent criticism recently amid allegations of corruption in the UN oil-for-food program. Some lawmakers in the United States have called for him to resign.

''In all fairness, I think injustice was done to the man in that regard," Yawer told Al-Arabiya. ''I think Mr. Kofi Annan performed well in the previous stage and should be given the opportunity to continue his path in the United Nations."

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