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April 7, 2003
 
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Annan to Visit European Leaders to Discuss Iraq

Reuters


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By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan intends to visit Britain, France, Germany and Russia this week to see if there is any common ground among feuding Security Council members for a U.N. political role in post-war Iraq, U.N. officials said on Monday.

France, Germany and Russia want the United Nations to play a leading part in shaping postwar Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called for a substantial U.N. political role. But the Bush administration says the United States and its coalition partners will be in charge.

To see if there is some consensus, Annan leaves on Wednesday for Europe to see Blair, a day after the British leader confers with President Bush in Northern Ireland, as well as French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

"There isn't as much debate and disagreement about this as you might read in the newspapers, Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters en route to Belfast. "There will be a role for the United nations as a partner in this process."

Annan on Monday called together the 15-member Security Council to say that Rafeeuddin Ahmed, a veteran U.N. employee, would be his special adviser on Iraq.

Diplomats said Russia's U.N. ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, said the United Nations could not endorse decisions made by the war victors, except for humanitarian aid. And Pakistan is pushing a resolution that would protect holy and cultural sites in Iraq.

At issue is what kind of a political role the United Nations could play in giving legitimacy to any post-war Iraqi government. Otherwise a U.S.-British backed Iraqi leadership would have problems spending oil revenues for reconstruction.

HUMANITARIAN ROLE

Most U.S. officials are agreed on a humanitarian role for the United Nations and even human rights or judicial training in the future.

But unlike Afghanistan, where the United Nations organized a conference on the country's future while the United States lobbied around the edges, U.S. officials appear to want the reverse. "The Americans want it the other way around. They are in the driving seat and the U.N. is in the corridors," one U.N. official said.

Meanwhile, in Kuwait hundreds of American military officers, diplomats and aid experts meet daily with British officials and a handful of Iraqi exiles to plan the shape of Iraq's future government and economy, without U.N. input.

Asked about these moves, headed by retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, Annan said he saw that as "part of the war effort."

Garner's mission was "eventually to try to pacify the situation and secure the environment before one moves on to the next stage," Annan said before Monday's meeting..

"I do expect the U.N. to play an important role, and the U.N. has had good experience in this area," he told reporters.

"There are lots of areas the U.N. can play a role, but above all the U.N. involvement does bring legitimacy, which is necessary for the country, for the region and for the peoples around the world," he said.

"Iraqis have to be responsible for their political future and to control their own natural resources, and whatever one can do to help the emergence of the new leadership in a new situation is what one should focus on," Annan said.

While no political role can go forward without council approval, many delegates are waiting for Annan to suggest one which he is loathe to do without agreement from the leading Security Council members.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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