U.N. Chief in Iraq Sees Limited Progress

The United Nations chief in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, says that the progress made in Iraq is not enough. Di Mistura told a news conference Saturday that the window of opportunity created by a lull in violence may be closing and that the government had to work harder to resolve issues like the status of 4.4 million refugees.

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ARI SHAPIRO, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Ari Shapiro.

Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is in Iraq this morning. He's part of a congressional delegation that's meeting with Iraqi and U.S. officials. This comes a day after the U.N. released its latest assessment on Iraqi human rights. Beneath the diplomatic language, the group was clearly frustrated by the Iraqi government's lack of progress.

We have several reports this morning on the state of affairs in Iraq, beginning with NPR's Dina Temple-Raston in Baghdad.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: At a news conference in Baghdad, the U.N. chief in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, tried to accentuate the positive while sending the clear message that the Iraqi government still had much to do.

Mr. STAFFAN DE MISTURA (U.N. Chief in Iraq): There have been some improvement on the economic situation. There have been some improvement even on the laws which came out. But this is not enough.

TEMPLE-RASTON: De Mistura said that the al-Maliki government had been given a narrow window of opportunity. The lull in violence in Iraq at the end of last year was supposed to provide the Maliki government with an opportunity to get things done. The U.N. is clearly concerned that there is a still long list of issues left unresolved.

Four point four million refugees and internally displaced Iraqis have received little relief. There are still enormous delays in reviewing Iraqi detainee cases. Even at the most basic level of counting civilian casualties, de Mistura said the Maliki government needed to step up.

Mr. DE MISTURA: It would be good if we could have access to the ministry of health's public available data about mortality statistics, because it does help all of us to be able to confront a reality on the ground in terms of the figures and the impacts. And so far, this is not yet the case.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Violence in Iraq is picking up. Thirteen U.S. soldiers have been killed in the past week alone. Two weeks ago, a coordinated bomb attack in Baghdad's Karradah neighborhood killed 68 people - one of the worst attacks in months. And now, officials are looking with growing concern to the events in the city of Kut, about a hundred miles southeast of Baghdad.

Rogue elements of the Mahdi Army are ignoring Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's seven-month-old ceasefire order. Intense fighting between Iraqi security forces and Mahdi fighters there raises the concern that the wider ceasefire might not hold.

Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News, Baghdad.

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