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Annan names acting Special Representative for Iraq

Annan names acting Special Representative for Iraq

10 December – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today named veteran relief coordinator Ross Mountain as his acting Special Representative for Iraq to replace Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was among those killed in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August.

At UN Headquarters in Geneva, he told reporters that Mr. Mountain would visit the country, as needed, from the temporary main UN base for Iraqi operations in Nicosia, Cyprus, “with a presence also in Amman,” Jordan, until security improves.

In his latest report to the UN Security Council on Iraq, released today, Mr. Annan says very real progress has been made in the past few months in advancing basic human rights, but he adds, “At the same time, the dangers posed by insurgents, whose attacks have been growing in sophistication and strength over the past months, are real.“

Mr. Mountain first joined the UN in 1973 and, after serving in a variety of positions, was appointed Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator and director of the Geneva office of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in August 1998. He headed the OCHA Crisis Task Team for Iraq and last visited Iraq in July.

“I have worked in the Middle East before and it will be a return to dealing with obviously an extremely acute issue,” Mr. Mountain told the news conference. “The United Nations did not leave and has not left Iraq.” The UN would continue to focus on humanitarian aid and reconstruction pending further decisions by Mr. Annan and the Security Council, he said.

The UN’s local staff continued the organization’s work after international staff members were pulled out following the bombing.

Mr. Annan has said he will name a permanent Special Representative for Iraq next year.

He was asked whether he had a timetable for returning international UN staff to Iraq.

“No, I cannot have a timetable,” he said. “It depends on the security situation. We need a secure environment to operate in and, of course, security is not just necessary for the United Nations staff, it’s necessary for reconstruction, it’s necessary for ordinary Iraqis and it’s necessary for the UN and the humanitarian workers.

“As you all know, we had a great tragedy in Iraq last August and we need to be prudent. But as soon as the security situation permits, we will be back.”

He was asked about a directive by US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz excluding French, German and Russian companies for competing for $18.6 billion in contracts for Iraqi reconstruction.

Mentioning the advisory panel of representatives from the Middle East and the Security Council that he recently convened to work on Iraq, Mr. Annan said: “I have been doing what I can to unify the nations.

“I hope we will all take steps that are unifying, that bring us together to tackle this important issue in Iraq because no one is interested in a chaotic Iraq in the middle of that region. Stability of Iraq is everyone’s business and we should pool our efforts and avoid steps and decisions that are divisive.”


PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

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Geneva, Switzerland, 10 December 2003 - Press encounter with Secretary-General and Ross Mountain, Special Representative for Iraq, ad interim

SG: Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. As you all know, I issued a report on Iraq to the Security Council today indicating how and where the UN would operate and assist the people of Iraq. And I also indicated in that report that I am naming a senior person to run the UN operations from the region, and that individual is Mr. Ross Mountain who has had extensive experience with the UN and in other crisis areas from East Timor to Afghanistan, to Lebanon, to Haiti. He will be in charge of our office which will be based in Nicosia and with a presence also in Amman. And as to the appointment of the Special Representative, that will be done in the not too distant future, and obviously it will be sometime next year. May be I should ask Ross to say a few words to you.

Ross Mountain: Thank you Secretary-General. It is certainly a privilege to have this opportunity. I have worked in the Middle East before and it will be a return to dealing with obviously an extremely acute issue. The United Nations did not leave and has not left Iraq. We have been focusing our work most recently, of course, in the area of humanitarian work and reconstruction and that will of course, at this stage, continue to be the focus pending further decisions by the Secretary-General and the Security Council.

Q: Do you have any comment on the US decision to exclude countries that did not support the invasion of Iraq from betting for contracts.

SG: No, I heard about the statement by the Deputy Defense Secretary. I have been trying to do whatever I can to unify the nations. As you known, I recently brought together the six neighbours of Iraq plus Egypt and five permanent members of the Security Council in addition to five elected members to try and form an advisory group which would work with me on Iraq. And it was also a beginning of my sense that we need to rebuild international consensus and pool our efforts to stabilize Iraq. I hope that we will all take steps that are unifying, that bring us together to tackle the important issues in Iraq, because no one is interested in a chaotic Iraq in the middle of that region. So, stability of Iraq is everyones' business and we should pool our efforts and avoid steps and decisions that are divisive.

Q: J'ai une question en français, quand allez-vous nommer le nouveau Haut Commissaire pour les droits de l'homme, puisque aujourd'hui c'est la journée des droits de l'homme. Est-ce que le diplomate européen, Moratinos est un candidat?

SG: ... Evidemment, je vais le faire l'année prochaine et j'ai une longue liste et je trouverai quelqu'un de très valable. Je nommerai quelqu'un de très valable. Patientez, ce ne sera pas trop long.

Q: Do you have any specific timetable for sending the international UN staff back into Iraq?

SG: No, I cannot have a timetable, it's really not in my hands. It depends on the security situation. We need a secure environment to operate in, and of course security is not just necessary for the United Nations staff, it's necessary for reconstruction, it's necessary for ordinary Iraqis, and it's necessary for the UN and the humanitarian workers. Our work is people. We need to be able to get to them and they need to be able to get to us. So if we get into a situation where we cannot move around and get to people and get our work done it's really not very helpful to be there. And so the Security Council itself recognized that and said we should go back when circumstances permit, and that circumstance refers to the security situation on the ground. As soon as a secure environment is established, I think we can get our work done safely without putting my staff at risk. As you all know, we had a great tragedy in Iraq last August, and we need to be prudent. But as soon as the security situation permits, we will be back. That is one of the reasons why we are moving into the region – to get closer to operate in the region, both from outside and cross border, and we will gear up as soon as the situation settles and go back.

Q: Would you totally exclude the scenario that after a withdrawal of the security occupation forces that the UN will also take on a security role in Iraq?

SG: If you are thinking in terms of blue helmets – UN peacekeepers, I do not see it. I (will) see a Security Council authorized multinational force that will help stabilize Iraq with the consent and agreement of the Iraqi Government, and I think it will be in the interest of the Iraqis, of the region and of the world. I will see, even after the handover, the international community assisting with security, reconstruction and the political process, human rights and all the other areas where we have expertise. But not UN blue helmets, I do not think we will have the capacity for that.

Thank you very much and have a good evening.

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