Security Council would decide UN role in post-war Iraq - spokesman

Security Council would decide UN role in post-war Iraq - spokesman

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard
Reacting to statements by the leaders of the United Kingdom and United States today that the United Nations would play a "vital role" in post-war Iraq, a UN spokesman welcomed such suggestions but stressed that any potential involvement of the world body could come only at the direction of the Security Council.

"We welcome any indications of an important role for the United Nations in post-conflict Iraq," spokesman Fred Eckhard told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York. "I don't think we have a clearer sense of what that role might be, and we would expect the Security Council to define whatever role - beyond the humanitarian one that might already be included in the mandates of our specialized agencies - that we might have in Iraq after the conflict has ended."

In reply to a question that a vital UN role might only refer to a humanitarian one, Mr. Eckhard said: "We won't be disappointed if it's only humanitarian but we think it would be unwise, and we're waiting for our marching orders from the Council."

The spokesman stressed the UN's experience in the administration of post-conflict situations as in Afghanistan, but that it depended on what the Security Council wants it to do in Iraq. "It's not that we're looking for a particular role. We know we can coordinate humanitarian relief. If that's what the Security Council asks us to do, we're happy to do it energetically," he said.

"We feel that for the legitimacy of any new governmental authority established in Iraq, and therefore for the stability of the region as a whole, it would be in everyone's best interest if the international community were brought to play in the establishment of such a government or authority," he added. "We know how to do that, how to assist in that process. We've done it most recently in Afghanistan. So we're prepared to do whatever the Council asks us to do."

Asked whether Secretary-General Kofi Annan would propose a specific UN role in upcoming talks with world leaders, Mr. Eckhard said he would be focusing on achieving Security Council unity on the issue. "His main thrust will be to encourage Council members to agree on a common plan of action for the United Nations, whatever that might be," he said.

The Secretary-General "has not put forward any ideas except to say, as he himself has said, that the legitimacy of any new government that might be set up in Iraq would be enhanced if it had the blessing of the international community," the spokesman said.