UN: Iraq’s leaders must address protest demands

Posted April 08, 2011, at 9:52 p.m.

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. envoy to Iraq urged the country’s leaders Friday to address the legitimate demands of protesters for jobs, services and accountability.

Ad Melkert warned that unless the government tackles these demands, Iraq’s political and democratic gains so far “may seem hollow to ordinary Iraqis.”

He told the U.N. Security Council that “this will be no easy task for the government of Iraq.”

Melkert said the unfolding events in the Middle East and persistent calls for change “are of major significance.”

“While Iraq has made remarkable strides in its democratic transition in recent years, which included the adoption of a constitution, credible national elections, a broad national partnership government and an opening environment for media and civil society,” he said “the people of Iraq are now demanding the dividends that were promised by their leaders.”

Protesters who have demonstrated across Iraq since Feb. 25 are voicing “legitimate concerns around better employment opportunities, the delivery of basic services and accountability,” he said.

He said “how to create opportunities and respond to the aspirations of young people will be key.”

Pakistani troops kill 30 militants

KHAR, Pakistan — Pakistani security forces killed 30 alleged Islamist militants Friday in a region close to the Afghan border, a government official said, bringing to more than 80 the number purportedly killed in two days of fighting there.

There was no way of verifying the limited information released about the battles in Mohmand, where the military repeatedly has tried to flush out the Taliban and al-Qaida militants. The army, which has an interest in exaggerating its battlefield successes, blocks access to Mohmand and other Afghan border regions.

The skirmishes began Thursday when troops in the Paizai area of Mohmand came under attack, said Maqsood Hasan, a deputy administrator in the region. The troops returned fire and killed 10 suspected insurgents, but also called for air support that left more 44 more insurgents dead. He said three troops were killed and two or three civilians also died, but it was unclear which side was responsible.

Hasan said another 30 insurgents were killed Friday in the same area, but gave no details.

He said Paizai was around two miles (three kilometers) from the Afghan border.

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