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Security Council Clarity Sought On UN Role in Iraq


Annan asks Security Council for greater clarity on UN role in Iraq

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  • Addressing the Security Council today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlined plans for reconstituting the world body’s work in Iraq while appealing for clear guidance on what role it is being asked to fulfil.

    Speaking just three days following the capture of Saddam Hussein, Mr. Annan said this development provides “an opportunity for a new beginning in the vital task of helping Iraqi’s take control of their destiny” by creating a secure and stable country.

    He stressed the urgency of restoring sovereignty to the Iraqis, and pledged the UN’s active engagement in this endeavour.

    But he also acknowledged the limits imposed by prevailing insecurity in the country. “Our on-the-ground engagement in important political and human rights work has suffered tremendously as a result of the 19 August bombing, which decimated the Office of the Special Representative, the core part of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq.”

    Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello was among the 22 victims of that attack. Earlier this month, the Secretary-General named a veteran UN humanitarian aid official, Ross Mountain, as Acting Special Representative.

    In his address to the Council today, Mr. Annan said the new envoy would head efforts to establish a core of UNAMI based outside the country while planning for the missions “eventual and incremental return to Iraq as soon as circumstances permit.”

    Until then, the Secretary-General said much can be done from outside the country, and pledged his personal involvement in this effort.

    “I myself remain in close contact with heads of State and government, foreign ministers and ambassadors trying to help forge international consensus on the way forward.”

    Mr. Annan called on Council members to provide “much greater clarity on what is expected of the UN by Iraqis and by the coalition in terms of assistance to the political transition.”

    He stressed that the UN was not standing aloof from the process. “The stakes are too high for the international community to just watch from the sidelines.” In appealing for clarity, the Secretary-General explained the responsibility he must bear in taking decisions on Iraq.

    “I need to weigh the degree of risk that the UN is being asked to accept against the substance of the role we are being asked to fulfil.”

    He called for the Council to specifically answer those questions. Above all, Mr. Annan pointed to the need for a credible and inclusive political transition as the best hope for stability and an end to violence in the war-ravaged nation. Towards this end, he appealed for international support to the Iraqi people who have endured so much.

    “They are now living through a process that will define the future of their country,” he said. “For their sake, and for the memory of those who have given their lives to help the people of Iraq, the process must succeed.”

    Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Secretary-General stressed again that the global community must come together in support of efforts to help Iraq. "I think it is clear that if we are going to be able to stabilize Iraq, we all need to work together and we need to rebuild international consensus," he said, responding to press questions.

    Asked about Washington's stance, Mr. Annan said it was his sense that the United States would like to see the international community come together to work to stabilize Iraq, help build a normal society, and foster a country which would be at peace with itself and with its neighbours.

    "I think there is an openness there."

    To a question about the implications Saddam Hussein's capture, Mr. Annan said the answer would hinge on how the world reacts. "There may be a new opportunity here, but it depends on how it is exploited by all concerned - to mend fences, heal wounds and move forward," he said.

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