UNITED NATIONS ~ UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned this week that urgent action is needed by the entire international community to drag Iraq back from the brink of all-out civil war.
Speaking as Iraqi leaders defended their policies to potential aid donors at the UN General Assembly, Annan joined their appeal for a quick and massive international effort to strengthen the embattled government in Baghdad and â€œbring Iraq back from the brink.â€
â€œIf current patterns of alienation and violence persist much longer, there is a grave danger that the Iraqi state will break down, possibly in the midst of full-scale civil war,â€ Annan said.
Following Annanâ€™s address, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani gave an impassioned defense of his governmentâ€™s strategy for combating terrorism and sectarian violence, disbanding rival militias and reforming government security services.
He also pledged to create a credible national unity government and institute wide-ranging economic reforms, including guarantees for foreign investors, a sound national oil law and transparency on how money is distributed and spent, according to a senior US official who attended the closed-door talks.
The meeting of foreign ministers and other leaders on the so-called Iraq Compact came as another 62 Iraqis were reported killed in suicide bombings or ethnic carnage between the countryâ€™s majority Shia and minority Sunni Muslim communities.
Annan said Iraq, which was invaded by a US-led force that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, had made â€œimportant progressâ€ in the past two years with two national elections, a constitutional referendum and a constitutional process.
But he said much more needed to be done both by Iraqâ€™s leaders and the international community.
Mondayâ€™s meeting was the biggest yet in a US-backed effort to create a new â€œIraq Compactâ€ – an agreement between the government and international donors that would commit Baghdad to political and economic reforms in return for a major influx of foreign investment and aide.
The gathering was attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, officials from all Iraqâ€™s neighbors and a wide array of European governments, according to the senior State Department official.