Iraq's prime minister on Saturday said his government would provide any necessary security for an expanded United Nations presence in his country, stressing that the "Baghdad of today is different from the Baghdad of yesterday."
The United Nations has maintained a reduced presence in Iraq since after an Aug. 19, 2003, bombing at its Baghdad headquarters that killed 22 people. In the wake of the bombing, then-Secretary-Genral Kofi Annan pulled all international UN staff out of the country, allowing only a small contingent to return in August 2004.
Nouri al-Maliki's comments followed a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which he said focused on expanding the world body's role in Iraq and working toward realizing the economic and political goals laid out in the International Compact with Iraq. The compact is a sweeping five-year economic and political reform package Ban helped broker in May in Egypt.
"The security situation ... has begun to develop tremendously, and the Baghdad of today is different from the Baghdad of yesterday," al-Maliki said.