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Annan heads to Geneva to kick off 5-nation European visit

Annan heads to Geneva to kick off 5-nation European visit

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today left for Geneva, where he is set to meet with the leaders of Nigeria and Cameroon in a follow-up to the recent judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the rights to the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula.

Mr. Annan's meeting tomorrow with Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Paul Biya of Cameroon comes on the heels of last month's ICJ ruling that essentially awarded Cameroon sovereignty over Bakassi.

In a position paper issued on 24 October, Nigeria said the judgment did not consider "fundamental facts" about the Nigerian inhabitants of the territory, whose "ancestral homes" the ICJ has now adjudged to be in Cameroonian territory.

The Secretary-General last met with the two leaders in Paris on 5 September, when they agreed to respect and implement whatever decision the ICJ might render on the case, which Cameroon brought before the Court in 1994.

From Geneva, the Secretary-General is scheduled to head to the Balkans, arriving on Sunday in Sarajevo. While in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Annan will hold meetings with UN officials and staff, as well as the country's authorities. He is then expected to proceed to Kosovo, the rest of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Croatia, before heading to the Netherlands and France.

Yesterday, while in Washington, D.C., the Secretary-General went to the White House to meet with President George W. Bush. Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others, were also present during the discussion, which covered the current changing of the guard in China, the new Security Council resolution on Iraq, peace efforts in the Middle East and a range of African and Latin American issues, a UN spokesperson said.

The talks also focused on the Secretary-General's recent initiative on Cyprus, Afghanistan, international terror, Chechnya, and the UN's Capital Master Plan for revamping the Headquarters building.

At a press encounter after the meeting, a journalist asked Mr. Annan a question about US involvement in the Cyprus issue, to which the Secretary-General replied, "I do expect the President to help. I am sure the President will do everything he can to help us find a settlement on Cyprus - and so have other leaders indicated. And I think we really have a chance."