Iraq to get new UN special envoy

The UN Secretary-General has left open a return to Baghdad of UN political staff, suggesting they might operate outside the country.

    Annan is under pressure to return UN staff to Iraq

    Kofi Annan said on Monday that if the Iraq "situation improves, we will be ready to go

    back... But we don't need to be

    in Iraq 100% to do what we can do or offer assistance".

    He added: "So we are looking at what we can do outside and cross-border

    and eventually what we can do inside."

    Annan also promised on Monday that he would name a chief envoy for Iraq shortly, following the August kiling of his special representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello.  

    Under pressure from the United States, Iraqis and others to

    send international staff back into Baghdad, UN officials said

    Annan was looking for a representative of stature.

    Iraq interim government 

    "(If the Iraq) situation improves, we will be ready to go

    back... But we don't need to be

    in Iraq 100% to do what we can do or offer assistance"

    Kofi Annan,
    UN Secretary General

    The chief envoy might not play an important role initially, but

    could have major responsibilities after an Iraqi interim

    government takes over in June, they said.

    Annan withdrew foreign political staff from Baghdad after

    the 19 August bombing of a Baghdad UN compound that killed 22 people, including Vieira de Mello.

     

    Since the United States and the Iraqi Governing Council

    announced last week they wanted an interim Iraqi Government

    by June, Annan had come under pressure to play a

    political role.

    Calls for the United Nations to return to Iraq had come in

    the last few days from the US,

    Italy, Germany

    and France

    .

    "I think it's time now with this new plan for the United

    Nations to determine whether or not circumstances will permit

    it to play a more active role inside the country," US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Monday

    .

    UN assistance

    "We want the UN to play a role and it is part of our plan

    in moving forward," he added.

    Annan said he also spoke to 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 UN assistance and advice in implementing the new

    decisions which have been taken".

    Vieira de Mello (L) was

    killed in 
    the UN's Baghdad headquarters

    On Monday, the deputy US national security adviser,

    Stephen Hadley, briefed Annan on the new

    American timetable for ending the occupation.

    But Annan repeated that an October Security Council

    resolution called on the United Nations to play a role in Iraq

    "as circumstances permit", a reference to safety conditions.

    Transfer of power

    He

    is under pressure from senior UN officials not to expose

    staff to harm.

    The Bush administration's decision to speed the transfer of

    power won praise from Annan last week.

    He had long agreed with

    France, Germany and others in advocating quicker restoration of

    Iraqi sovereignty.

    Annan has never championed a UN administration or

    military role for Iraq, as in Kosovo or East Timor.

    But he has

    argued that the United Nations play a role independent from the

    coalition ushering in democracy in Iraq.

    The Iraqi Governing Council is required to submit its new

    plans to the UN Security Council by 15 December.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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