UN chief lauds reduction in Iraq attacks

UNITED NATIONS - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday welcomed the reduction in attacks across Iraq and called for similar improvements in the political arena. His report to the U.N. Security Council echoed the message that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brought Iraq's leader during a visit Tuesday, warning that the cut in violence could be fleeting if the country's main groups did not reach an agreement on the future of the country.

Ban, who wrote his report prior to Rice's visit, said "the reduction in the overall number of attacks reported across Iraq is a welcome development."

But he said continued improvement in the security situation is likely to depend on engagement by Iraqi security forces and the U.S.-led multinational force, an extension of a temporary cease-fire by radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, and developments related to the Awakening Councils, Sunni Arab groups that switched sides to join U.S. forces against al-Qaida in Iraq.

The secretary-general cautioned, however, that attacks causing mass casualties "are a sobering reminder that those using terrorism in pursuit of their political aims have no regard for human rights or human life."