The UN secretary-general said Friday that provincial elections were an important step toward full democracy but told Iraqis they still have work to do before they can "enjoy genuine freedom and security and prosperity."
Ban Ki-moon made his second visit to Iraq as UN chief a day after official preliminary results showed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's allies swept to victory in the vote for powerful local councils, an endorsement of his crackdown on extremism and violence.
"You have come such a long way, but still you have to go a far way to say that you will fully be able to enjoy genuine freedom and security and prosperity," he said during a meeting in Baghdad with President Jalal Talabani.
"I'm very much encouraged by what you have achieved," Ban said.
Al-Maliki said later that the relatively violence-free elections in Iraq sent a message. "We can guarantee that sectarian and ethnic discrimination will not be back," he said during a joint news conference with Ban.