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Annan: Afghan Neighbors Should Help Build Peace

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is calling for Afghanistan's neighbors to cooperate in building a stable post-Taleban government. Mr. Annan is in Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Annan also cautioned the anti-terrorism coalition to resist the temptation to expand its campaign to Iraq.

Mr. Annan says he expects it will take at least a decade after the conflict in Afghanistan to establish a stable government in Kabul.

Speaking to reporters a day before he and the United Nations receive the Nobel Peace prize, Mr. Annan said if a lasting peace is to come to Afghanistan its neighbors must put aside old animosities and cooperate.

"We cannot succeed without the support of the neighbors and the neighbors' acceptance that the government of Afghanistan needs to be loyal to the Afghan people and not necessarily to one or another of the neighbors," said Mr. Annan.

The Secretary-General says he sees the fight against terrorism as a short-term goal. The long-term solution, he believes, is to get regional rivals such as India and Pakistan, or Iran and Iraq, to agree on common solutions.

"This is how we are going to defeat terrorism, by cooperation across border. We win the fight by cooperating fully amongst nations or we do not win it at all," said the U.N. chief. "The action in Afghanistan is part of that struggle, and perhaps the most dramatic part of it. But in the scheme of things, I see it as a short-term effort."

Mr. Annan also issued a veiled warning to the United States and its allies not to allow the success of military action in Afghanistan to tempt them to push on into Iraq.

"I have ... to say taking the war on terrorism to Iraq, that any attempt or decision to attack Iraq today is unwise and can lead to [a] major escalation in region, and I hope it will not be case," said Mr. Annan.

On another matter, the U.N. chief said he was sorry Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who shared the 1994 prize, could not attend the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the award.

But when asked repeatedly about published reports that he had privately urged Mr. Arafat not to come, Mr. Annan's reply was diplomatic. "I think it is not surprising he is not here given what happened on the ground. It is important that he stays home with his people and deal with the crisis on hand. It is a situation that has prevented him from coming. As much as we miss him here, I think it was the right decision to stay home and tackle the situation at hand," he said.

Mr. Annan admitted that he felt odd accepting a peace prize at a time when there are so many conflicts in the world. But he told reporters that while good and evil, unfortunately, live side by side, it is important that the forces for good not lose hope and keep working to end those conflicts. He said that was not only his message, but also that of the Nobel Peace Prize committee.