Annan sees no functioning government in Iraq
* Hopes for quick return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq
UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday it appeared there was no functioning government in Iraq and establishing law and order must be a top concern for the US-led forces in the country.
Annan, speaking to reporters a day after a mob in Baghdad tore down a statue of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, said he had viewed images of looting but also saw scenes of jubilation in the streets. “But of course, when you think of the casualties, both military and civilian, the Iraqis have paid a heavy price for this,” he said.
“From what we have seen in the reports, it appears there is no functioning government in Iraq at the moment,” Annan said. “We have also seen scenes of looting, and obviously law and order must be a major concern.”
Under international humanitarian law, the responsibility for maintaining order rests with the invading US, British and Australian forces once they have taken control, he said.
The secretary-general said he expected UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq after the war as their mandate from the Security Council to verify Iraqi disarmament remained in force.
Under previous council resolutions, disarmament is a condition for the council to lift UN sanctions, including a ban on oil sales, imposed on Baghdad after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The 15-nation council remains deeply divided since the United States and Britain went to war with Iraq without UN authorization three weeks ago, including over the question of whether inspectors should return after the fighting has ended.
Apart from the United States, all council members including US military partner Britain want inspection teams from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission led by Hans Blix and the International Atomic Energy Agency headed by Mohamed ElBaradei to return to complete their work.
“The mandate is still valid. It is only suspended because it became inoperable on account of the war,” Annan said.
“I would expect Mr Blix and Mr ElBaradei to be able to return as soon as it is possible. And I think they are the ones with a mandate to disarm Iraq, and when the situation permits they should go back to resume their work,” he said.
Kofi Annan was to meet with Mohammad Aldouri, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday, the UN announced.
Aldouri told reporters outside his New York residence on Wednesday “the game is over.”
Earlier reports said Aldouri had left for Europe overnight.
There was no indication of what the two would discuss, but the meeting was not listed on Annan’s public agenda for the day.
In remarks to reporters earlier on Thursday as he was arriving at UN headquarters, Annan said Aldouri “didn’t ask for an asylum or protection.”
“When I saw him on Monday,” Annan added, “he didn’t ask me for help with his status.”—AFP