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UN: Annan Begins Formal Discussions On Postwar Iraq, Will Meet Security Council Leaders

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the United Nations is necessary to legitimize the postwar administration of Iraq and plans to meet this week with leaders of key Security Council states on the issue. Annan's comments came as a U.S.-British summit was beginning in Northern Ireland, which was expected to set a course for UN involvement in postwar Iraq. Council members have so far agreed only on a humanitarian role for the UN in Iraq.

United Nations, 8 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan begins a trip to at least four key Security Council states tomorrow to discuss the extent of a UN role in postwar Iraq.

Annan is scheduled to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Russian President Vladimir Putin to assess their views on Iraq.

All four leaders have expressed support for a major UN role in Iraq. But U.S. officials have repeatedly said the U.S.-led coalition should control the postwar process in Iraq because their forces have played the lead role in ousting the Iraqi regime and "have paid the cost in lives."

Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush met yesterday in Northern Ireland to seek common ground on the issue.

Annan yesterday convened the 15 representatives of the UN Security Council states for their first formal meeting on the postwar rebuilding of Iraq. Diplomats said there were few indications they have mended their deep divisions over the conflict.

But council members welcomed Annan's appointment of Rafeeuddin Ahmed as special adviser on Iraq. After the meeting, they released a statement saying they agreed that any role beyond the coordination of humanitarian activities in Iraq, and other activities authorized by existing resolutions, would require a new mandate from the council.

Annan told reporters before the meeting that he expects the United Nations to play an essential role in Iraq. "The UN involvement does bring legitimacy which is necessary -- necessary for the country, for the region, and for the peoples around the world," he said.

So far, the UN has had no part in the U.S. planning for an Iraqi postwar administration, which involves hundreds of military officers, other U.S. experts, and Iraqi exiles meeting regularly in Kuwait. Annan said Ahmed, his new adviser, has been tasked with examining postwar Iraq. The UN secretary-general said he hoped Ahmed would be a regular conduit with council members.

"This role will be -- actually he's been doing it already -- thinking about the future, thinking about what is likely to happen, and what the UN role would be, and also to be available to the [UN Security] Council members and all the members involved to exchange ideas and then give me some advice," Annan said.

Ahmed is a veteran diplomat from Pakistan who has worked extensively on UN development issues. The secretary-general's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, stressed that Annan will not assign a special representative for Iraq until the Security Council makes its plans for the country known.

"The reaffirmation today of Rafee Ahmed's role as special adviser merely provides the UN system with a focal point for planning of postconflict Iraq. It's our first official discussions with governments today of a possible UN role. No specific formulae were put forward by the secretary-general," Eckhard said.

Annan's office has thus far been careful not to openly discuss postwar plans for Iraq due to many UN members' concerns that they would legitimize the U.S.-led actions to oust the Iraqi government.

The U.S. attack on Iraq followed a failure in the council to reach agreement on the course of action to take against Baghdad. France, Russia, Germany, and China said Iraq could be disarmed peacefully. The United States and Britain said Iraq had already violated its disarmament obligations and use of force was justified to end the threat it posed.

At yesterday's meeting hosted by Annan, Russia's UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, said the United Nations could not make decisions that legitimized the war. Pakistan proposed a resolution that would protect holy and cultural sites in Iraq.

A key emerging issue is how the United States would justify exporting Iraqi oil outside of UN control, even if Iraqi officials directed a new oil ministry backed by occupation forces. Last week, the head of the UN's development agency, Mark Malloch-Brown, said UN intervention was essential to sort out ownership and investment guarantees. He said unless there was a UN role, the United States should not count on oil receipts to finance the near-term reconstruction of Iraq.