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United Nations considers a greater role in Iraq

  • Story Highlights
  • Iraqi prime minister requests additional U.N. support for his country
  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: The time for action has come
  • Ban: Number will increase when measures are in place to ensure staffers' safety
  • The U.N. reduced its presence after two bombings at its Baghdad headquarters
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Bolstered by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's assurances that there's been "substantial improvement" in security and stability in Iraq, the United Nations is considering boosting its presence in the country.

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki talk to reporters Saturday.

"The international community cannot turn away from or ignore Iraq," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Saturday.

"The time for determined, collective action has come."

He made the comments following high-level talks with foreign officials including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the topic.

The increased presence would not only support national reconciliation in Iraq, but also promote diplomatic relations between the country and its neighbors, Ban said. Video Watch Ban's pledge of help to Iraq »

Al-Maliki requested additional U.N. support for his country, maintaining the security situation has improved enough for that to happen, although he admitted that pockets of tension -- and terrorism -- remain

Steps toward national reconciliation have also been taken, he said.

"We're trying to build a culture of peace and security, but to make this possible, we've stressed accountability and justice," al-Maliki said.

The Iraqi prime minister, who is in New York for the U.N. General Assembly session, will meet with several top U.S. officials, including President Bush.

Flanked by Ban, he told reporters that 2007 was Iraq's security year, and that he's hoping 2008 will be "the economic year."

Ban agreed that security in Iraq is improving, but added, "much more has to be done." The security situation will have direct bearing on an increased U.N. presence, he said.

The number of U.N. staffers in Iraq will increase as soon as measures are in place to ensure their safety, Ban said.

One option under consideration is putting staffers in Basra, where British troops recently decreased their presence, he said. Another is establishing a support office in Baghdad to help smooth the coordination between Iraq and its neighbors.

Those plans will be finalized later, possibly at a meeting in Istanbul next month, Ban said.

The U.N. Security Council last month unanimously passed a resolution that expanded the mandate of its mission in Iraq. Resolution 1770 was hailed as a new phase of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, or UNAMI.

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The resolution says the U.N. seeks to "foster regional dialogue" on matters such as "border security, energy and refugees." It also says the U.N. will work with Iraqis to "resolve disputed internal boundaries" and promote discussion on national reconciliation.

The United Nations has had a limited role in the country and greatly scaled down its activities after two bombings four years ago at its Baghdad headquarters, including one that killed 22 people. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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