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Annan hopes UN weapons inspectors will return

Annan hopes UN weapons inspectors will return to Iraq

1 April – Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he hoped United Nations weapons inspectors would eventually return to Iraq, noting that their work had merely been suspended.

Speaking to reporters upon arriving at UN Headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General said that if any weapons of mass destruction were to be found, the inspectors should go back to test them. "I hope the time will come when they will be able to do that," he added.

Asked about what consequences it might have for the legitimacy of military action if such weapons are not found, the Secretary-General noted that, although the issue before the Security Council was one of disarmament, "the Council had not endorsed this war."

As for Iraqi threats concerning suicide attacks throughout the Arab world, the Secretary-General stressed that, "if we were to have suicide attacks around the world, most people would see it as illegal, it would be seen as terror against innocent civilians."

Turning to the humanitarian situation, the Secretary-General said he was concerned about the conditions in the besieged Iraqi cities. "With the hot season coming on, if you have no water and electricity, it can lead to sanitation problems," he said. "I know efforts have been made by the Red Cross and some of the others on the ground to get the water up and running and that is what we would expect."

In reply to a question about what the UN could do "way down the road," Mr. Annan said that while the main focus now was on the humanitarian situation, the Council would discuss the UN's future role and perhaps ask the world body to take on additional responsibilities as it has done in other situations. "It is not excluded that the UN will play an important role but that is a question that the Council will have to deal with," he added.

The Secretary-General was also asked about feelings among Arab ambassadors that he had not been vocal enough about what was happening in Iraq. "I think I have said enough - before the war - and even now I've been saying a lot about war," he replied, adding that those who wanted the war to end and the UN to bring about a ceasefire would obviously want him and the Council to be "a bit more active on that front."

On calls for a General Assembly meeting to condemn the war, the Secretary-General said there had been discussions about it and he was not sure if delegates had agreed on it or not, "but obviously there's lots of unhappiness in this building about the war."

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