United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appealed to the Security Council to set aside its past differences over Iraq and find a new unity that will allow the Iraqi people to take charge of their own destiny.
"The Council now has the chance to leave behind earlier disagreements and find unity of purpose in the post-war phase," Mr. Annan told the 15-member body at a session wrapping up its work for the month of April.
"Those decisions will not be easy," he added. "But they should not be impossible, if you keep some shared principles firmly in mind. As you debate them, I would urge you to set aside past divisions, and ask yourselves what will help the Iraqi people most. Their interests must come first. The overriding objective must be to enable the Iraqi people to take charge of their own destiny."
He noted that in the coming weeks, the Council will have important decisions to take on existing UN mandates in the face of the post-war situation, such as when to lift sanctions, the Oil-for-Food programme under which Iraq was allowed to use oil revenue to buy food and other humanitarian supplies, and the search for weapons of mass destruction.
"Beyond that, you will need to consider how best the international community can help Iraqis rebuild their country - and what part the United Nations might play in assisting that effort, and in the process of restoring Iraqi sovereignty," he said. "And I hope I can rely on you to take any mandate this Council entrusts to the United Nations, that you have to make sure that it is clear, coherent, and matched by the necessary resources."
He added that there was "a direct correlation between UN success and Security Council unity - and between UN setbacks and divisions among Council members about the strategy to be pursued."
Stressing that the Iraqi people must be free to choose their own system of government, Mr. Annan declared: "What is needed is an impartial, representative and transparent process, leading to the choice, by the Iraqis themselves, of a credible and legitimate Iraqi political authority, to which sovereignty can be restored."
Upon leaving the Council meeting, when asked if sanctions should be lifted by 3 June, when the current phase of the Oil-for-Food Programme ends, Mr. Annan told reporters there should not be an arbitrary date set. In reply to another question, he reiterated his hope that UN weapons inspectors would be able to resume their work, noting that the mandate given them was still valid unless the Security Council modifies it.
Suggesting UN inspectors might cooperate with American weapons teams, he said: “For example, they may be called in to work with them in verifying what they have found and that would also help them fulfil their mandate of certifying to the Security Council that Iraq has been rid of weapons of mass destruction.”
Questioned about this week's meeting of Iraqi representatives in Baghdad sponsored by coalition forces, Mr. Annan said he hoped the meetings to identify Iraqi leaders were not the end of the road, but something that would open up into a broader process, in which the UN would have a role to play.