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War not inevitable but Iraq must meet Security Council demands - Annan

War not inevitable but Iraq must meet Security Council demands - Annan

Kofi Annan speaks to press
The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said today that he still believed war in Iraq was not inevitable but stressed that Baghdad must comply fully and proactively with Security Council demands.

"I think the message today has been clear - everyone wants Iraq to be proactive in cooperating with the inspectors and fulfil the demands of the international community," he told reporters after a luncheon hosted by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany, which holds the Council's rotating Presidency for the month of February. "I think if they do that, we can avoid a war."

The luncheon followed an open ministerial-level meeting of the Council to hear an extensive briefing by United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, who presented US evidence of Iraq's programme of weapons of mass destruction. All members of the Council, and the representative of Iraq, spoke during the debate.

Asked about the possibility of him going to Baghdad, Mr. Annan noted that the question had been posed in the Council. He stressed that the international community's message for Iraq to disarm was clear. "That message has come from the united Security Council, it has come from the Arab League, it has come from its neighbours and the [chief UN] inspectors are going back in the next few days to give them the same message in the name of a united international community," he stressed. "If I were to go, I would not carry a different message. I would be carrying the same message."

The Secretary-General also stressed that the Council, based on reports by UN inspectors, would have to determine whether Iraq was cooperating, or declare it in material breach. "But the judgement has to come some day," he said. "It is not up to the inspectors to declare material breach. They will present the facts and it is up to the Council to make that judgement."

Responding to a question regarding a possible UN role beyond the looming conflict, the Secretary-General reiterated that the UN has been engaged in contingency planning on the humanitarian side. "This is also something that we have given some preliminary thought to, but we are not there at all," he said.