18 November 2003

Possible U.N. Role in Iraq

[UN Secretary-General] Annan said he had also spoken over the weekend to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the senior British official in Iraq, as well as Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader who is this month's president of Iraq's interim Governing Council.

Talabani told him the Governing Council would 'need U.N. assistance and advice in implementing the new decisions which have been taken.' And Powell foresaw 'an important role for the United Nations, Annan said.

Talabani has agreed with the Bush administration's plans to broaden the membership of the Iraqi Governing Council and create a provisional government by June.

'I think we have always indicated that we are prepared to play our role but of course the security condition has to be appropriate,' Annan added.

The Bush administration's decision last week to speed up the transfer of power won praise from Annan. He had long agreed with France, Germany and others in advocating quicker restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.

Annan has never championed a U.N. administration or military role for Iraq, as in Kosovo or East Timor. Instead he has argued that the United Nations play an independent political role in organizing a broad-based interim Iraqi government.

A U.N. official noted that the leading Shiite authority in Iraq, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has refused to speak to U.S. officials but did talk to the U.N.'s Vieira de Mello before his death.

Stephen Hadley, the deputy U.S national security adviser, is expected to discuss Iraq in detail on Monday with Annan and other U.N. officials as well as key Security Council ambassadors.

Stalin once asked: 'How many divisions has the Pope?' And neocons have been talking about the UN's death...

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