Since no country has the capacity to deal with global ills on its own, multilateral action – with the United Nations providing a “unique legitimacy” – is essential in order to successfully confront the world’s problems, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in Paris.
"It is too easy to proclaim the virtues of multilateralism in principle, only to go your own way whenever a decision has to be taken that directly affects your citizens' security, or the interests of a well-organized domestic lobby," the Secretary-General said at a roundtable discussion held at the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationales de Sciences Politiques.
Mr. Annan noted that there are some areas, such as international peace and security, where universal laws do need to be directly enforced by global action, but for multilateralism to work, it must be applied consistently, he added.
Earlier Monday, the Secretary-General met with President Jacques Chirac of France and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. In addition to discussing the return this week of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq, they spoke for over an hour on the situation in the Middle East, and African issues ranging from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Burundi and Côte d’Ivoire, according to a UN spokesman.
The Secretary-General also briefed the President on the situation in Colombia as well as his recent talks with the Presidents of Nigeria and Cameroon concerning their dispute over the Bakassi peninsula.
During a luncheon which followed, their talks continued touching on Cyprus, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, next year's Franco-African Summit, the Global Compact and Georgia, the spokesman said.
Asked afterwards by reporters about a letter sent over the weekend by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, the Secretary-General said the correspondence raised a number of legal objections, which would be up to the Security Council to decide. [The letter was distributed to Council members this morning in New York.]
Mr. Annan also stressed that the Iraqi Government must fully cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. "This is the only way to avoid a military conflict in the region," he said.
The Secretary-General then went on to meet French Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, who talked about France’s contribution to UN peacekeeping operations, as well as about Iraq, Afghanistan and the Secretary-General’s visit last week to the Balkans.