Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, has told squabbling U.N. Security Council members to put aside differences and work together for the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty. In unusually tough language, the interim foreign minister accused the United Nations of failure in the face of Saddam Hussein's tyranny. He called for the world body to do better in efforts to return the country to full sovereignty.
"The United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the people of Iraq from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years," he said. "The U.N. must not fail the Iraqi people again."
Mr. Zebari had particularly harsh words for opponents of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. He cautioned Security Council members that their disagreements complicate efforts to return the country to Iraqi rule.
"Settling scores with the United States should not be at the cost of helping to bring stability to the Iraqi people," he said. "This squabbling over political differences takes a backseat to their daily struggle for security, jobs, basic freedoms, and all the rights the United Nations is chartered to uphold."
Several of Mr. Zebari's most pointed barbs seemed directed at Secretary General Kofi Annan. In particular, he criticized Mr. Annan's formation of a Contact Group on Iraq without including any Iraqis.
"We insist on playing a full part in any initiatives that concern the future of our country," said Mr. Zebari. "Without Iraqi participation in discussions that have Iraqi interests at stake, such as the recently formed U.N. contact group, decisions taken cannot be held valid."
Mr. Zebari also criticized Secretary General Annan's decision to delay the return of international staff to Iraq, basing them instead in Cyprus and Jordan.
Standing outside the council chamber a short time later, Secretary General Annan lashed back at his critic. He said the United Nations is doing the best it can under difficult circumstances.
"Obviously, that is an opinion that he is entitled to," said Mr. Annan. "I do not want to critique his speech… I think the U.N. has done as much as it can, and we are prepared to do more. This is not the time to pin blame and point fingers when everybody is trying to figure out how creatively we can organize ourselves to help Iraqis."
Earlier, in a Security Council address, Mr. Annan called the restoration of sovereignty to Iraq an urgent task. But he said it is impossible to say when circumstances would permit a return of international U.N. staff on a permanent basis.