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Annan makes new appeal for Security Council unity on Iraq

Annan makes new appeal for Security Council unity on Iraq

Kofi Annan with Prime Minister Balkenende
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a new appeal today for Security Council unity in the face of differing approaches to ridding Iraq of banned weapons of mass destruction, repeating earlier statements that war should only be a last resort.

"Obviously, we need to exhaust all possibilities to resolve this issue peacefully before force is considered," Mr. Annan said during a press encounter in The Hague, where he attended the inaugural session of the International Criminal Court (ICC). "But a united Council working with unity of purpose and direction can make that difference and I think attempts are being made, as difficult as it is, by the Council to come together and to move forward."

The United States, United Kingdom and Spain have introduced a draft resolution that presents Iraq with a 17 March deadline to cooperate fully with disarmament demands, which France says it will veto. France, Germany, the Russian Federation and other Council members have voiced opposition to action at this time and seek continued and enhanced weapons inspections.

Asked about the effect of a French veto on Council unity, Mr. Annan said: "Not very good for the unity but we have seen this before. Many vetoes have been cast, I hope we will be able to come together on this one but to be able to come together on this one and avoid the vetoes implies that we need to come with a compromise that everybody can rally around and say this is the direction we are going to go and put pressure on the Iraqi authorities to disarm."

Despite the different approaches, Mr. Annan said everybody was agreed on disarmament itself. "The people in the streets, the government, everybody, is insisting on disarmament and that is why the public mood must not be misread by the Iraqi authorities," he added.

Before attending the ICC ceremony, the Secretary-General met with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkanende of the Netherlands and Foreign Minister Jaap G. de Hoop Scheffer for over half an hour, and discussed a wide range of issues. He is scheduled to meet later today with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim before returning to New York tomorrow.

Monday evening in New York, top UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said Iraq should have declared a remotely piloted plane, but when asked by reporters whether that provided the "smoking gun" of Iraqi non-compliance, he replied, "No, we're not yet at that stage at all. We're investigating what the drones are."

Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), said that for the drone to be illegal it would have to have a reach longer than 150 kilometres and be linked to the delivery of bio-chemical weapons. He said Iraq had given the range as 55 kilometres and that they had been flying it for 10 minutes.


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