By Colum Lynch and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
UNITED NATIONS, June 11 -- Despite the recent U.S. military buildup in Baghdad, insurgent and militia attacks persist and "civilian casualties continue to mount" in Iraq as a whole, according to a report released Monday by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
The 15-page report, which tracks events in Iraq over the past three months, said U.S.-led efforts to restore calm in Baghdad have progressed "slower than had been hoped for" and that violence has spread to other parts of the country.
The dire security situation has forced the United Nations to scale back its operations in Iraq and to relocate some staff at its headquarters in the U.S.-controlled Green Zone to temporary, reinforced quarters elsewhere within the zone. Citing an increase in rocket fire, Ban has asked the U.N. Security Council for money to construct a costly new headquarters in the walled-off Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government are housed.
The U.N. needs "a hardened integrated compound, with the necessary structural integrity to withstand impacts from high-calibre ordnance," Ban wrote. The new facility "will make the difference between the U.N. mission being able to operate effectively in the future or having to wind down operations due to unacceptable security risks."
Ban agreed with U.S. statements that the number of civilian casualties in Baghdad has declined in recent months, but said that the total number of attacks against civilians in Iraq has not. Iraqi and international forces, meanwhile, have "suffered higher levels of casualties."
"Despite the initial success of stepped-up security measures in recent months, the situation in Iraq remains precarious," Ban wrote. "Insurgent attacks persist and civilian casualties continue to mount" in Iraq as a whole.
The implementation of the U.S.-sponsored buildup has "forced some insurgent activity" out of Baghdad, Ban's report said. At the same time, insurgent activities have increased in Diyala, Salahuddin and Tamim provinces.
U.N. officials said the Iraqi government has stopped giving them full access to statistics on civilian deaths, impeding U.N. efforts to maintain accurate tallies of civilian casualties.
The report said that Iraq has agreed to allow U.N. personnel access to all the country's detention facilities. The visits will begin in June. U.S. and Iraqi security operations have led to a steep increase in the number of detainees in Iraqi prisons, which the report says raises fresh concerns about human rights.
In other developments Monday, Iraq's parliament voted to oust its speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a day after one of his bodyguards allegedly roughed up another lawmaker, legislators said.
The parliament voted 113 to 55, with 107 members absent, to remove Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, from his post, said an adviser to the deputy speaker, Khalid al-Attiyah. The resolution placed Mashhadani on leave and opens the way for the selection of a replacement who some legislators hope will be a less polarizing and combative presence in the fractious 275-seat legislature.
Attiyah, who is Shiite, will act as interim speaker until a successor to Mashhadani is chosen, said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons. The permanent successor would come from within Mashhadani's leading Sunni bloc in parliament.
The legislators took action after an incident in the parliament building lobby Sunday morning. Legislator Firyad Mohammed Omar, a Shiite, was pushed, beaten and briefly detained by Mashhadani's guards, said Firyad Rwandzi, a spokesman for the Kurdish alliance in parliament. A Sunni legislator called the account exaggerated.
On Monday, the U.S. military confirmed that three American soldiers were killed Sunday and six others wounded when a suicide car bomber attacked in Mahmudiyah, about 15 miles south of Baghdad. An interpreter was injured in the attack, which destroyed part of a highway overpass.
Insurgent attacks on highways and bridges have occurred with increasing regularity in recent months inside and outside Baghdad. On Monday, Iraqi police said, a truck bomb blew up in a suicide attack on the al-Tahrir Bridge, an important transit point over the Diyala River north of the capital.
British Finance Minister Gordon Brown, who takes over as prime minister on June 27, made an unannounced visit to Iraq Monday for what he termed a "fact-finding" mission to "listen and learn" about the country's security and political situation, he told reporters traveling with him.
Brown met with several senior Iraqi and U.S. officials, including Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus.
Partlow reported from Baghdad. Correspondent John Ward Anderson and special correspondent Naseer Nouri in Baghdad contributed to this report.