Athens, 17 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union today said the United Nations must have a "central role" in rebuilding Iraq, but also stressed U.S.-led forces in the country have a responsibility to restore stability. The EU statement was issued from Athens, where UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is meeting with the union's 15 member states and 10 countries set to join the EU next year. Representatives from Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Russia, and Ukraine are also in Athens for the talks.
The statement says the United Nations must be involved in the "process leading towards self-government for the Iraqi people, utilizing its unique capacity and experience in postconflict nation building."
The statement also says the U.S.-led coalition in charge of Iraq "has the responsibility to ensure a secure environment, including for the provision of humanitarian assistance and the protection of the cultural heritage and museums."
The leaders said the EU will play a "significant role in the political and economic reconstruction" of Iraq.
Annan said any UN role beyond the purely humanitarian must be mandated by the UN Security Council. And he said in order to play such a role, the UN must be given adequate resources.
Annan said U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq must urgently ensure law and order and distribution of relief supplies. He said it is "imperative" the coalition, "as the occupying power," now give top priority to fulfilling its security obligations.
The UN secretary-general also urged EU leaders to move forward on the Middle East peace process.