UN Iraq-Kuwait mission fosters stability and should be maintained, Annan says
The United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM), which monitors the demilitarized zone on the border between the two countries, contributes to calm and stability and should be maintained, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report released today at UN Headquarters in New York.
In his report to the Security Council, which set up the Mission over 10 years ago following Iraq's forced withdrawal from Kuwait, the Secretary-General points out that despite general calm along the border, several recent incidents in the demilitarized zone "have been a source of tension and concern." These include the detention - and subsequent release - of a Kuwaiti official held by Iraq late last month after he inadvertently crossed the border.
Covering UNIKOM's operations over the past six months, the report also provides information on the mission's humanitarian work in the area. UNIKOM's 14-member German medical team evacuated 10 Iraqi civilians injured by mines, which still pose a "major danger" especially on the Iraqi side of the zone, according to the report.
Underscoring the perils of unexploded ordnance, the Secretary-General reports that a 12-year old Iraqi girl injured by a mine died from her wounds, while in another incident, an Iraqi child had thrown an unexploded mortar round over the fence surrounding the mission's headquarters. "On numerous occasions, injured or sick Iraqis spontaneously appeared at the gates of patrol and observation bases," Mr. Annan writes. "Many had travelled for quite a long time and over long distances, in the knowledge that they would receive the medical assistance they needed there."
The mission also continued to carry out its monitoring duties, reporting 437 air violations of the demilitarized zone over the past six months. UNIKOM lacks the technical or intelligence means to definitively identify the origins of the overflights "and cannot rely on inference or supposition in such a matter," the Secretary-General says.