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UN chief urges Iraq politicians to back PM’s reforms

BAGHDAD: UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Iraq’s politicians to support embattled Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reform drive.

Speaking in Baghdad on his eighth visit to Iraq as secretary general of the United Nations, Ban emphasised the need for national reconciliation.

“I call on all political leaders here today to continue your efforts towards a single, unified vision to advance national reconciliation in Iraq,” Ban said in an address to parliament.

He said such a vision should include the justice and accountability law, a controversial amnesty law and the establishment of a national guard.

Abadi is facing tough resistance from his own political camp over several of these issues.

“This spirit of compromise must extend to making sure that the executive and legislative branches, including the parliamentary blocs, work closely together to support the prime minister, as he implements the needed reforms to address the multiple crises you face,” Ban told lawmakers.

Ban, who had last visited the Iraqi capital in March 2015, was travelling with World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim and Islamic Development Bank head Ahmad al-Madani.

“This is a joint and combined demonstration of our support for the noble efforts, sometimes very difficult efforts of the Iraqi government in first of all securing peace and stability through national reconciliation and socio-economic reforms, through inclusive dialogue,” Ban said.

A drop in oil prices has had a devastating effect on the economy of Iraq, already strained by the cost of the fight against the Islamic State group.

As areas are gradually retaken from the militants in intense battles, Baghdad is left with little to spare on the reconstruction of ravaged cities. The head of the World Bank pledged his institution’s support to Iraq as it begins rebuilding reconquered areas.

The World Bank recently granted Iraq a $1.2 billion loan to help it weather its financial crisis — the institution’s largest ever direct budget support in the region.

“A clear commitment to reforms would build confidence, which he hoped would lead to greater international support for coping with the impact of low oil prices,” a statement from Kim’s office said.

Supporters of cleric Moqtada Sadr have been camping outside entrances to the fortified Green Zone — which houses the country’s main institutions — for more than a week. Sadr says the goal of the protest is to support Abadi’s reform drive and demand more measures in the fight against corruption.

He has given Abadi until Tuesday to present names of technocrats for a reshuffled cabinet. But his move leaves Abadi’s government hanging by a thread, with powerful leaders in his own bloc both reluctant to relinquish their positions and rattled by Sadr’s return to the spotlight. AFP