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  Kofi Annan insists attack on Iraq is illegal, US allies disagree

NEWS SUMMARY:

Kofi Annan insists attack on Iraq is illegal, US allies disagree

Compiled by Mathilde Soyer

Reference: The Guardian, Sept. 17, 2004

"I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time--without UN approval and much broader support from the international community," said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
In what may develop into a diplomatic row between the US and the UN, the UN's Secretary-General Kofi Annan has described the US invasion of Iraq as illegal.

However, Annan's comment has drawn the ire of US allies, who condemned Annan's utterances, insisting that the war is legal and justified.

Annan said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service that he believed there should have been a second UN resolution following Iraq's failure to comply over weapons inspections.

He also said it should have been up to the Security Council to approve or determine the consequences. In this view, therefore, the decision to take action in Iraq should have been made by the Security Council, not unilaterally.

Asked if he viewed the invasion of Iraq as illegal, he said: "Yes, if you wish. I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter--from our point of view, from the [UN] charter point of view, it was illegal."

Annan said that "painful lessons" had been learned since the war in Iraq--"Lessons for the US, the UN and other member states. I think in the end everybody concluded that it's best to work together with our allies and through the UN," he said. "I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time--without UN approval and much broader support from the international community."

He said it was unlikely that Iraq would be able to hold "credible elections" as planned in January 2005 "if the security conditions continue as they are now."

US President George W. Bush, in the midst of a re-election campaign dominated by a debate on the war in Iraq, did not immediately react to the UN chief's comments. He is due to speak at the UN General Assembly next week.

However, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, fighting a tight re-election battle himself, hit back at Annan, accusing him of heading a "paralyzed" body and insisting the war was legitimate.

He said that the UN was incapable of dealing with International crises.

"The legal advice we had--and I tabled it at the time--was that the action was entirely valid in International law terms," he said.

A former Bush administration aide, Randy Scheunemann, branded Annan's comments "outrageous," and accused Mr Annan of trying to influence the outcome of the forthcoming US presidential election. He said the UN's failure to act in Sudan, and in other areas around the world, was proving that multi-lateralism is ineffective.

The UK and Japanese governments also responded sharply to Annan's statements. Hiroyuki Hosoda, Japan's top government spokesperson, told a news conference that he would be seeking clarification. "We wish to verify the real meaning by making various inquiries," he said.

Annan has consistently said that the invasion of Iraq did not conform with the UN charter.


Mathilde Soyer, a student at the Institut des Sciences Politiques in Rennes, France, is an intern with this newspaper.



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This story was published on September 22, 2004.
 
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