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Annan Says US Is Trapped in Iraq


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the United States is "trapped" in a difficult situation in Iraq and that Iran and Syria could play a positive role in helping the Baghdad government bring the fighting to an end. The secretary-general was speaking in Geneva, where he had a farewell meeting with U.N. diplomats and reporters based there. He steps down as secretary general at the end of the year.

Secretary-General Annan says Iraqis will have to resolve their internal differences, but they also will need help from their neighbors, as well as from the broader international community.

He says the United States has no easy options in Iraq. "The U.S., in a way, is trapped in Iraq - trapped in the sense that it cannot stay and it cannot leave. There are those who maintain that its presence is a problem. And, there are those who say that if they leave precipitously, the situation would get worse and that they should stay on to help calm and stabilize the situation before they leave. I think the U.S. obviously will have to think through this very, very carefully," he said.

Annan says U.S. troops should not leave the country before the Iraqis themselves are able to maintain a reasonably secure environment.

The secretary-general says he has always believed that Iran and Syria could be part of the solution and he encourages their involvement. He says he thinks Iraq's neighbors could play a positive role if they can come together and work with the Iraqis to calm the violent situation. "I believe that an Iraq at peace is in the interest of all the countries including Syria and Iran. And, so I would urge them to use their influence and to do whatever they can to help pacify Iraq," he said.

After 10 years of service, Kofi Annan's tenure as U.N. Secretary-General concludes the end of the year. He says his biggest regret is that he was not able to get the U.N. Security Council to prevent the invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led forces. He says he believes a war could have been avoided if U.N. inspectors had been given more time to do their job.

Mr. Annan will be succeeded by Ban Ki-Moon, former foreign minister of South Korea.