Annan blames US for Iraq blast Stockholm 20 August 2003 15:12

United Nations chief Kofi Annan insisted on Wednesday that the UN had no plans to pull out of Iraq despite the bombing of its Baghdad headquarters, taking a swipe at the United States-led coalition, which he said was responsible for security.

"We will carry on our mandate that has been given to us by the Security Council," the secretary general said at a news conference at Stockholm airport shortly before he was due to board a flight to New York.

Asked whether the UN was planning to withdraw staff from Iraq, Annan said: "We do not intend to do this. We are assessing the situation."

The truck bombing, which killed at least 24 people at the UN headquarters in Baghdad on Tuesday, came on the heels of a wave of attacks on coalition forces in recent months.

"The least we owe them is to ensure that their deaths have not been in vain. We shall continue," he said.

Annan criticised the US for failing to secure the situation in Iraq for international humanitarian workers: "The occupying power is responsible for law and order and the security of the country," he said.

"We had hoped that by now the coalition forces would have secured the environment for us to be able to carry on the essential work of political and economic reconstruction, institution-building and for Iraqis to carry on with their work," he said.

"That has not happened," he said, while acknowledging that it was difficult to prevent such an attack.

A US military spokesperson disagreed with Annan, saying the UN was in charge of its own security.

"It was a UN issue to provide their own security," said Lieutenant Peter Rekers.

"They had a private security company providing security around the [UN] compound," Rekers said.

The UN and the US have been at loggerheads over the question of security in Iraq, and the UN's role in general.

According to a report last week in the New York Times, Washington is no longer seeking a major UN role in the occupation of Iraq, and will instead try to enlist individual countries to help the US-led occupation forces.

The report said the US government had specifically opted against giving the UN any authority over security in Iraq.

Other reports have indicated that Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld is strongly opposed to any dilution of military authority over Iraq by involving the UN.

It is feared, the reports said, that a UN role might actually hamper US operations, including against guerrillas or terrorists in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the US-led coalition said it would re-evaluate its security procedures following the attack.

Annan said the UN would also review its security in Iraq and the rest of the world, adding that the Security Council would meet later on Wednesday to discuss its next moves.

The UN's mandate in Iraq includes coordinating humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, promoting the safe return of refugees and facilitating the reconstruction of key infrastructure.

The top UN envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was among those killed in Tuesday's truck bombing, which Annan qualified as a "brutal act of senseless violence".

"Yesterday was a dark Tuesday for the UN, Iraq and international solidarity. On that day the United Nations lost some of its most outstanding public servants, including Sergio Vieira de Mello," said Annan, with tears in his eyes.

Annan said he believed Tuesday's bombing and recent attacks against the coalition were the result of an organised rebellion and not independent acts carried out by disgruntled Iraqis.

"Obviously it seems to be much more organised and much deeper than one thought at the beginning," he said.

"I do not know who they are, what their cause is or what god they pray to, but what they did yesterday will not serve their cause nor their goal," he said, a day after cutting short his holiday in Finland to return to New York. -- Sapa-AFP

 

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