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Annan Says Stable Iraq Will Benefit Entire Mideast - 2004-09-09

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says that stabilizing Iraq is going to be a long and drawn out task, but one that must be achieved for the sake of the whole Middle East. Mr. Annan made the remarks to reporters in Mexico City, where he was attending a conference on democracy.

Speaking to reporters after the conference, Mr. Annan stressed that it is absolutely vital for the allies to stay the course in Iraq in order to achieve, peace and democracy.

"My sense is that we are in for the long haul. How long governments are going to stay the course I really cannot say, but it is going to be a long process," he said. "But let me conclude by saying that stabilization of Iraq is in everyone's interest. We cannot afford to see a de-stabilized Iraq in the middle of that region. So we all have to do whatever we can to pacify and stabilize Iraq."

Mr. Annan praised Mexico for helping Iraq by hosting conferences about election and voting procedures for Iraqi officials.

Turning to the issue of international terrorism, Mr. Annan said it is one of the UN's top priorities and that all countries must work to fight it. "The Security Council in the United Nations has been very active because we believe, and I believe, that one of the most effective ways to fight terrorism is to get international cooperation, get governments to work together, get governments to ensure that no one offers safe haven to terrorists, no one allows them logistical support, nor allows them to open bank accounts and share information," he said. "I think that political, diplomatic and security cooperation will have very great impact on terrorism."

But Mr. Annan also stressed that the fight against terrorism cannot be unrestrained. The world, he said, must come up with the ways and means of fighting terrorism effectively while preserving the rule of law and basic civil rights. He called on Russia to respect the rule of law while fighting Chechen rebels.