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“Prime Minister Al-Maliki has pledged to pursue a bold programme of reform to safeguard his country's long-term economic future. His Government is also determined to seek progress in the political and security fields which, I believe we can all agree, are prerequisites for Iraq's normalization and economic revitalization.” He said the Government has also committed itself to initiatives to  promote national dialogue and reconciliation, to adhere to a legislative timetable designed to strengthen Iraqi unity and to ensure the equitable sharing of Iraq's natural resources and

wealth.

“Together, these efforts can build momentum for the political process,” he said.  Mr. Ban said the UN, together with the World Bank and other key partners will work with the Government of Iraq to achieve its vision. The Joint Monitoring Matrix, which is part of the Compact, sets out actions that would enable the Government to meet clear and realistic objectives, and will facilitate the monitoring and reporting of progress. Turning to the international community, he asked for active support to all the country’s goals, along with further debt forgiveness.

“There is no doubt,” Mr. Ban said, “that more must be done to bring a halt to the ongoing violence in Iraq, the brunt of which is being borne by innocent civilians. Beyond the terrorist attacks and sectarian violence, a humanitarian crisis is stretching the patience and ability of ordinary people to cope with everyday life.”

“This makes it all the more important to develop a framework for Iraq's normalization,” he said.

Earlier today, Mr. Ban discussed Iran’s nuclear programme with the country’s Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Motaki, urging him to continue discussions with the European Union, according to a UN spokesperson, who said that the two also talked about Lebanon as well as Iraq, where the Secretary-General said Iran should play a constructive role in building a national consensus.

Calling for release of kidnapped BBC journalist, UN observes Press Freedom Day

3 May - The United Nations today marked World Press Freedom Day by calling for the release of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalist Alan  Johnston, who has been detained in Gaza since 12 March, and all other reporters in captivity.

“Attacks on freedom of press are attacks against international law, against humanity, against freedom itself –against everything the United Nations stands for,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today. “A free, secure and independent press is among the very foundations of democracy and peace.”

He voiced his dismay of the abduction in the Palestinian Gaza Strip of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who has been held in captivity for the past 52 days.

“I appeal again for Alan Johnston’s immediate and safe release,” he said. “No cause is served, and any cause is undermined, by his continued captivity.” Mr. Ban also voiced alarm that in the past year, over 150 media professionals have died and many others have been injured, harassed, detained or abducted, becoming targets as they sought “to shed light on the plight of others.”

Scores of people gathered across the street from UN Headquarters in New York to rally for Mr. Johnston’s prompt release in an event organized by the BBC.

“No cause is served by Alan’s captivity,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the crowd of sign-waving supporters, including numerous fellow journalists who had gathered in a show of solidarity. BBC’s world news editor Jon Williams praised his colleague’s objectivity in

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