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Annan Concerned About Lawlessness in Iraq - 2003-04-10

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says there are no signs of a government in Iraq. The U.N. leader expressed concern about scenes of looting and general lawlessness.

Mr. Annan commented on the events of the past few days with reporters at the United Nations, noting both the elation of cheering crowds hailing coalition troops, and the absence of law as they toppled statues of Saddam Hussein and looted government buildings and palaces. "It appears there is no functioning government in Iraq at the moment, and we also saw the scenes of jubilation," said Kofi Annan. "But, of course, when you think of the casualties, both military and civilian, the Iraqis have paid a heavy price."

U.N. and humanitarian aid officials are concerned about the safety of relief workers and massive shipments of humanitarian goods to help the Iraqi people. Crowds ransacked the UNICEF office in Baghdad, taking phones, furniture, and equipment. The World Food Program intends to send staff back to Iraq within the next few days to assess the situation, and prepare for large scale shipments of food and supplies. UNICEF reports that drinking water is urgently needed in southern Iraq.

U.N. officials say Iraq has a trained civil service which should help ease a transition to a functioning government, but the destruction of offices and equipment will complicate an already formidable task.

According to the Geneva Convention, the responsibility for law and order falls to belligerent forces once they have taken control. But Australian, British and U.S. military are wary of taking steps that make them appear to be an occupying force.

In addition to humanitarian workers, the United Nations wants U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Iraq to resume their search for weapons of mass destruction.