A UN envoy said Tuesday that nearly 3,000 people have been killed in Iraq in four months and that the country risks stumbling onto a "dangerous path" to disarray.
Martin Kobler, the outgoing UN special representative to Iraq, told the Security Council that political tensions and fallout from the Syria conflict have made the past four months among the bloodiest of the last five years.
"Nearly 3,000 men, women and children have been killed and over 7,000 more injured," Kobler told the 15-nation council.
Dozens have been killed in a series of major attacks in July and Iraqi leaders now face "critical decisions" amid the new tensions across the country, the envoy said.
It can take "important steps in deepening the roots of democracy" after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, Kobler said.
"Or Iraq can go down a dangerous path, potholed with political impasse and sectarian violence at each turn."
More than 2,600 people have died in a surge of unrest this year, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.
Iraq has been gripped by violence for years, but analysts say widespread discontent among members of its Sunni Arab minority, which the Shiite-led government has failed to address, has driven the spike in unrest this year.
Kobler said the UN mission in Iraq had sought to promote a negotiated settlement, maintaining contacts with demonstrators staging protests in several cities.
He said political parties should end the stalemate by amending controversial laws on the confiscation of property of former senior members of Saddam's Baath Party, and to an accountability law.
Kobler also made a new international appeal for countries to accept Iranian exiles based at a camp near Baghdad.
About 3,000 members of the People's Mujahedeen have moved from Camp Ashraf in Diyala province to Camp Liberty, a former US base, near Baghdad.
Ten people have been killed in two attacks on the new camp this year.
Albania has agreed to take 210 of the opponents of the Iranian government and Germany 100.
"There is no other peaceful solution than relocation to other countries outside Iraq," Kobler told the council. "I appeal to all member states to take in the remaining residents."
Kobler said the Iraqi government had not provided promised security for the camp and that residents had not cooperated with the UN refugee agency.
He also said the camp leadership had carried out "human rights abuses" against residents.
Iranian Americans and former US congressman Patrick Kennedy meanwhile staged a demonstration outside the UN headquarters as the Security Council met to criticize Kobler and demand greater UN protection for the exiles.