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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Profile: Lakhdar Brahimi
Lakhdar Brahimi
Iraq's political future is in Mr Brahimi's hands
Veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi has seen more than his fair share of trouble-spots in his long career.

During more than 40 years of service, he has been called upon to help make or keep the peace in countries including Lebanon, South Africa, Haiti, Afghanistan and now Iraq.

As United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy, he has the task of shaping the caretaker administration that will run Iraq until elections can be held in early 2005.

He came to the task straight from a tough two-year assignment, also for the UN, helping Afghans to thrash out a post-Taleban constitution for their country.

Mr Brahimi's plan for Iraq has been gratefully received by a US administration weary of post-war nation-building efforts in the face of fierce resistance by insurgents.

And Mr Brahimi is widely perceived as being temperamentally well-suited to the task of healing the country's divisions.

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy describes him as infinitely patient, politically shrewd and persuasive, and valued for his negotiating skills and intellectual ability.

Unifying figure?

However, Mr Brahimi - a former Algerian foreign minister - is not without his critics.

A prominent member of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Ahmed Chalabi, has in the past accused the UN envoy of having an "Arab nationalist agenda" and claims he will not be the unifying figure that Iraq needs.

But Mr Chalabi - once touted as a possible future leader of Iraq by supporters at the Pentagon - has now fallen out with the US-led coalition.

More serious, arguably, is the charge from Israel that Mr Brahimi has jeopardised UN impartiality by describing Israeli policy towards the Palestinians as "the big poison in the region".

Despite Mr Brahimi's closeness to the UN secretary general, a spokesman for Mr Annan is said to have described the remarks as unacceptable.

Born in Algeria in 1934, Mr Brahimi was ambassador to Egypt and Sudan and a representative of the Arab League for seven years until 1970.

After other diplomatic postings, he returned to the Arab League as undersecretary general in 1984. He became its special envoy to Lebanon to 1989 and mediated the end of the country's civil war.

As a UN representative, he led missions to South Africa and Haiti when both nations were undergoing political upheaval.

Critical view

Mr Brahimi first became UN envoy for Afghanistan in 1997, charged with preventing civil war and trying to persuade the six neighbouring states to aid in the development of a workable form of government if the Taleban were toppled.

However, he resigned in 1999, citing continued frustration over a lack of resolution to the conflict between the Taleban and other warring factions.

He was reappointed to the post in 2001 and played a key role in the negotiations that led to Afghanistan's first post-Taleban constitution.

The process finally bore fruit in January this year, after Mr Brahimi stepped in to break the last-minute deadlock at a grand assembly, or loya jirga, that was debating a series of amendments.

One of Mr Brahimi's most notable accomplishments was his report in 2000 on the UN's past efforts at mediation.

In what became known as the "Brahimi Report", the UN came in for harsh criticism for its failure to react to the atrocities in Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995.

Citing these all too public humiliations, Mr Brahimi called for the equivalent of a defence ministry to be created within the UN, in order to prevent such failures happening again.

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