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Annan Looks at Challenges of Last Six Months


In a rare news conference, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressed a wide range of issues confronting the international organization. Mr. Annan says he will have a lot to do in his last six months as head of the United Nations.

Mr. Annan said many challenges face the United Nations.

The U.N. leader says he still plans to travel to Zimbabwe and hopes to set up a date for the visit when he sees President Robert Mugabe July 1 at the African Union summit. A U.N. committee recently recommended that Zimbabwe be downgraded to "least developed country" status. Zimbabwe blames its economic crisis on European Union sanctions.

"I think Zimbabwe is a country that had given a lot to that region," he said. "Zimbabwe in economic and agricultural terms was one of the breadbaskets of the region and has the capacity of doing that. We need to think of the Zimbabwean people. We need to do what we can to help Zimbabwe and the people and not sit by for the country to totally collapse. I believe we, the international community, should find a way of assisting Zimbabwe to come back to the fold and to turn around its economy and its social systems."

Discussing Darfur, Mr. Annan said pressure must be maintained on both the Sudanese government and rebel groups to bring peace to the region. An important issue, he said, is what will happen with the Janjaweed, the militia group backed by the Khartoum government.

"Once the peace agreement goes into force and we have U.N. peacekeepers on the ground or other peacekeepers, one of the things that one will have to tackle on the ground is the question of disarmament," he said. "You have lots of weapons on the ground. In the agreement itself, there is an understanding that Janjaweed will be disarmed. I would think the easiest way to disarm the Janjaweed is for the government to do it since that are allied to the government. Of course, the disarmament should not be limited to the Janjaweed."

Mr. Annan applauded a U.S.-led initiative to try to stabilize Somalia, but rejected any efforts that would empower warlords. Asked to react to Somalia's request that the United Nations lift an embargo, the U.N. chief said the issue must be studied by the Security Council. But he added that eliminating the embargo would allow more weapons to come into the nation.

Closer to home, Mr. Annan said he is confident that the U.N. budget crisis will be resolved by the June 30 deadline. The United States and some other major U.N. contributors are linking a spending cap to progress on U.N. reform.

"Next week, I shall transmit to the [General] Assembly the comprehensive review of accountability and oversight which has been carried out by an independent panel," informed Kofi Anann. "Clearly a lot of member states are reluctant to negotiate under the pressure of the spending cap. I hope we shall soon see agreement to lift it."

Mr. Annan, whose term expires December 31, refused to speculate who is likely to succeed him.

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