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[casi] FT Article: Annan Moves to Stress UN's Principles

Note that contributor Nathaniel Hurd again joins fellow stalwarts Glen Rangwalla
and Colin Rowat as a mainstream news source ...


Source: Mark Turner, "Annan Moves to Stress UN's Principles", Financial Times,
11 March 2003


Kofi Annan's dramatic intervention this week on the legality and consequences of
a war in Iraq marked a growing belief in United Nations circles that the time
has come for the body to issue a more public defence of its guiding principles.

"If the US and others were to go outside the [Security] Council and take
military action, it would not be in conformity with the [UN] Charter," the UN
secretary-general told journalists at the Hague. "All around the globe, people
want to see this crisis resolved peacefully," he said. "In certain circumstances
the use of force may be necessary to secure a lasting peace.  But the reality is
that it would cause great human suffering, whether it is long or short; that it
may lead to regional instability and economic crises; and it can - as it often
has before - lead to unintended consequences, producing new threats and dangers."

These were important words, touching on the most difficult issues facing the
world body. According to Shashi Tharoor, undersecretary-general, the UN has two
clear elements, often confused. One is to provide a forum where sovereign states
reach decisions; the other is to climb into the trenches and put the Charter's
principles into practice.

"There's always been considerable confusion in the minds of the world public
between UN as stag and the UN as actor," said Mr Tharoor. In times of Council
agreement the two mesh well. In times of disagreement, as now, the UN faces deep

Recognising the difficulty of action without agreement, Mr Annan's public
comments have until recently focused upon maintaining Council unity. But as war
approaches, his relative reticence on a war's potential consequences has upset
an increasingly influential community of non governmental organisations (NGOs).

"Many in the NGO community and the UN system have been concerned that the
secretary-general has failed to forcefully and publicly advocate on behalf of
Iraqi civilians and international law," said Nathaniel Hurd, an NGO adviser on
UN Iraq policy.

"He should highlight with more vigour the fact that after the Gulf war and 12
years of economic sanctions, many Iraqi civilians are extremely vulnerable - at
risk of death - if the US attacks Iraq."

Advisers stress that behind the scenes, Mr Annan has worked hard to stress the
UN's principles. But the decision has now been taken to highlight them more
publicly. "Having concentrated on private diplomacy, he felt the moment had come
to remind the public where he stands," said Edward Mortimer, an adviser to Mr

The question now is how much further he is prepared to go; many people are
asking whether Mr Annan will attempt a trip to Baghdad. So far he appears very
reluctant to do so without a clear Security Council mandate. His last visit, in
1998, is widely seen to have been a mistake. This time round, Mr Annan is more

"In the present circumstances, I'm not sure what a visit to Iraq would achieve,
and what message one would take to Iraq," he said.


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