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Annan urges Iraq to cooperate with his envoy on Kuwaiti missing persons

Annan urges Iraq to cooperate with his envoy on Kuwaiti missing persons

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the Baghdad authorities to reverse their "unfortunate" stance against cooperation with the United Nations official designated to deal with persons missing as a result of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

In a report to the Security Council released today, the Secretary-General says that over the past four months, Iraq has "continued its approach of non-cooperation with the High-level Coordinator" on the issue, Ambassador Yuli M. Vorontsov.

"Once again, I strongly urge the Iraqi leadership to reconsider its current policy regarding the Coordinator," Mr. Annan writes. "As I have stated on a number of occasions, he can only achieve what he is mandated to accomplish if Iraq changes its position."

The Secretary-General rejects the "groundless and inaccurate claims" put forward by Iraq on the matter, most recently by the country's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Naji Sabri, in a statement annexed to a letter sent to Mr. Annan on 20 August. Among other charges, Mr. Sabri states that the Secretary-General's previous report on the issue constituted "final proof of selectivity, double standards and deliberate distortions of the facts." The Foreign Minister also refers to the "tendentious political nature of the mission of the so-called Coordinator."

In response, Mr. Annan writes in his current report that "such claims are counterproductive for the resolution of long-standing humanitarian issues." Iraq should, he adds, "abandon its stance of declaring no knowledge of the whereabouts and fate of the Kuwaiti and third-country nationals who were arrested and deported more than 11 years ago."

For his part, Mr. Vorontsov remains ready to meet with Iraqi officials at any time and any place, according to the report. "It is my strong conviction that a dialogue between the Government of Iraq and Ambassador Vorontsov would bring positive results in the search for a solution to the humanitarian issues with which he has been entrusted," the Secretary-General says.