Annan speaks with US Iraq Study Group as sectarian violence soars

The Iraq Study Group, which is led by former US Secretary of State James Baker and Lee Hamilton, the former Chairman of the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee, had been seeking to arrange a meeting with the Secretary-General since September, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.Its members, who spoke by teleconference today with Mr. Annan, have also had conversations with Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown as well as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Iraq Ashraf Qazi.Over the weekend, Mr. Qazi continued his denunciation of rising violence in Iraq, calling recent terrorist attacks a “cancer in its body politic,” and urging the country’s people and leaders to hold a genuine national dialogue.In the absence of a national consensus in support of policies and measures to prevent extremists from destroying Iraq, he warned that the country “would continue to descend into a civil war-like situation and its people would become the victims of an unprecedented human rights catastrophe.”Mr. Annan echoed this view in remarks to reporters today. Asked whether Iraq was in civil war, he replied “Given the developments on the ground, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there. In fact, we are almost there.”

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