UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says continuing violence in Iraq will prevent him from sending a large UN team back to the country "for the foreseeable future."
Speaking to reporters in New York today (Tuesday), Mr. Annan said the violence has already hindered a small UN team working with Iraqis on forming an interim government.
Mr. Annan also raised doubts that elections will take place in January as planned. He said it would take eight months to organize the elections, once the new legal framework for the country is in place.
But he said it would be hard for the United States to change its June 30th target date for handing over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government. The secretary-general said Iraqis are anxious for an end to the U.S.-led occupation.
Mr. Annan also called for the release of civilian hostages and an end to the current violence.
The secretary-general withdrew foreign UN staff from Iraq in October following a deadly bombing on its Baghdad compound that killed 22 people.
With the recent increase in violence in the country, some political figures in the United States and other countries have called for greater UN involvement in Iraq.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.