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[casi] Annan blames US for Iraq blast

Mail & Guardian Online News

Annan blames US for Iraq blast


20 August 2003 15:12

United Nations chief Kofi Annan insisted on Wednesday that
the UN had no plans to pull out of Iraq despite the bombing
of its Baghdad headquarters, taking a swipe at the United
States-led coalition, which he said was responsible for

"We will carry on our mandate that has been given to us by
the Security Council," the secretary general said at a news
conference at Stockholm airport shortly before he was due to
board a flight to New York.

Asked whether the UN was planning to withdraw staff from
Iraq, Annan said: "We do not intend to do this. We are
assessing the situation."

The truck bombing, which killed at least 24 people at the UN
headquarters in Baghdad on Tuesday, came on the heels of a
wave of attacks on coalition forces in recent months.

"The least we owe them is to ensure that their deaths have
not been in vain. We shall continue," he said.

Annan criticised the US for failing to secure the situation
in Iraq for international humanitarian workers: "The
occupying power is responsible for law and order and the
security of the country," he said.

"We had hoped that by now the coalition forces would have
secured the environment for us to be able to carry on the
essential work of political and economic reconstruction,
institution-building and for Iraqis to carry on with their
work," he said.

"That has not happened," he said, while acknowledging that
it was difficult to prevent such an attack.

A US military spokesperson disagreed with Annan, saying the
UN was in charge of its own security.

"It was a UN issue to provide their own security," said
Lieutenant Peter Rekers.

"They had a private security company providing security
around the [UN] compound," Rekers said.

The UN and the US have been at loggerheads over the question
of security in Iraq, and the UN's role in general.

According to a report last week in the New York Times,
Washington is no longer seeking a major UN role in the
occupation of Iraq, and will instead try to enlist
individual countries to help the US-led occupation forces.

The report said the US government had specifically opted
against giving the UN any authority over security in Iraq.

Other reports have indicated that Secretary of State Donald
Rumsfeld is strongly opposed to any dilution of military
authority over Iraq by involving the UN.

It is feared, the reports said, that a UN role might
actually hamper US operations, including against guerrillas
or terrorists in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the US-led coalition said it would re-evaluate
its security procedures following the attack.

Annan said the UN would also review its security in Iraq and
the rest of the world, adding that the Security Council
would meet later on Wednesday to discuss its next moves.

The UN's mandate in Iraq includes coordinating humanitarian
and reconstruction assistance, promoting the safe return of
refugees and facilitating the reconstruction of key

The top UN envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was among
those killed in Tuesday's truck bombing, which Annan
qualified as a "brutal act of senseless violence".

"Yesterday was a dark Tuesday for the UN, Iraq and
international solidarity. On that day the United Nations
lost some of its most outstanding public servants, including
Sergio Vieira de Mello," said Annan, with tears in his eyes.

Annan said he believed Tuesday's bombing and recent attacks
against the coalition were the result of an organised
rebellion and not independent acts carried out by
disgruntled Iraqis.

"Obviously it seems to be much more organised and much
deeper than one thought at the beginning," he said.

"I do not know who they are, what their cause is or what god
they pray to, but what they did yesterday will not serve
their cause nor their goal," he said, a day after cutting
short his holiday in Finland to return to New York. --

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