United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appealed to all the parties in Iraq to refrain from violence, urging the United States to do all it can to seek a peaceful end to the confrontation in Fallujah and warning that violent military action would only make matters worse.
"It is definitely time now for those who prefer restraint and dialogue to make their voices heard," the Secretary-General told a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York.
"There is nothing cowardly or fainthearted about this approach. Those who venture into violent situations in the course of peace run just as high a risk as the soldiers do, as we in the United Nations learned all too painfully last year," he said, alluding to the bombing last August of the UN office in Iraq, which killed 22 people, including his Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello.
"It takes courage and dogged determination to work for peace in a violent world."
Asked about the continuing insecurity in Iraq, Mr. Annan said: "The reason why I asked for caution is that the more these attacks - the more the occupation is seen as taking steps that harm civilians and the population, the greater the ranks of the resistance grows."
The Secretary-General acknowledged receiving an appeal from Fallujah that the UN should intervene in the standoff there. "I have spoken to US authorities about this and the need for caution, the need to do all that is possible to avoid a violent confrontation, which, as I said, would play into the hands of the resistance and also have a broader reaction in the region," he said.
Referring to a briefing of the Security Council yesterday by his Special Adviser Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General said it was "a very sober assessment" of the chances of success in the political process in Iraq, given the deteriorating security situation.
"But I want to add my voice to his in appealing to all parties in Iraq to refrain from violence, to respect international humanitarian law, and to give this process of political transition a chance," he said.
"We all want to see the end of the occupation. We all want to see Iraq at peace - with itself and with its neighbours and with a genuinely representative government," he said. "Somehow, we have to get from here to there, and I think the kind of caretaker government he's proposed is the way forward."
Video of the press conference [44mins]