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Annan appeals to Security Council to unite

Annan appeals to Security Council to unite and bring relief to Iraqi people

Invoking "the terrifying impact" of war on Iraq, grief for the dead and anguish for the living, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed today to the divided Security Council to unite on a common purpose and to the international community to respond swiftly and generously to a new "flash appeal" for humanitarian aid for the Iraqi people.

"All of us must regret that our intense efforts to achieve a peaceful solution, through this Council, did not succeed," Mr. Annan told the 15-member body at the outset of an open meeting on Iraq requested by the Arab League and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Declaring that many across the world were bitterly disappointed by the Council's divisions, he said: "Their faith in the United Nations can be restored only if the Council is able to identify and work constructively towards specific goals. I urge the five permanent members, in particular, to show leadership by making a concerted effort to overcome their differences."

Mr. Annan noted the differences between those who feel Iraq failed to cooperate fully in inspections aimed at ridding it of weapons of mass destruction and those who consider it illegitimate to use force without first reaching a collective decision by the Council. "The inability of the Council to agree earlier on a collective course of action places an even greater burden on you today," he said, urging the Council to rediscover its unity of purpose.

"We all want to see this war brought to an end as soon as possible," he said. "But, while it continues, it is essential that everything be done to protect the civilian population, as well as the wounded and the prisoners of war, on both sides, and to bring relief to the victims."

The Secretary-General stressed that the primary responsibility for meeting the humanitarian needs of the population of Iraq rested with the belligerents who control the territory. But he added that the UN relief agencies were ready and willing to help and even now, through their local staff - "those brave and devoted Iraqis (who) deserve our profound respect" - were bringing what limited relief they could.

"I fear that the humanitarian effort required in the coming weeks and months is going to be very costly," he declared. "We are about to launch a 'flash appeal' to donors. I urge Member States to respond swiftly and generously, and not to do so at the expense of victims of other emergencies in other parts of the world, which may be less newsworthy but are no less devastating for the people caught up in them."

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