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UN's Annan Wants Weapons Inspectors Back in Iraq - 2003-04-22

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says United Nations relief workers are returning to Iraq and weapons inspectors should, too.

The head of the United Nations said that if the splits caused by the conflict in Iraq are to be healed, the international community must agree on key principles to secure peace and stability in that war-torn country.

"We must all respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq," said Mr. Annan. "We must accept that Iraqis should be responsible for their own political future and control their natural resources, but in getting there the international community has a role to play and we in the United Nations are ready to make a contribution."

Mr. Annan told Vienna-based U.N. employees that an increasing number of the organization's staff are going back to Iraq. He adds that U.N. personnel are coordinating humanitarian aid and could soon re-establish the distribution system for full implementation of the oil for food scheme.

The secretary-general said the work of the weapons inspectors, who were dispatched to Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, was universally respected. Their mandate, he said, is still valid and had only become inoperable because of the war.

Mr. Annan says the inspectors must return to Iraq "as soon as circumstances permit," to verify that Iraq has been rid of weapons of mass destruction. The secretary-general was on a three day official visit to Austria that includes talks with leading politicians. Austria hopes that Vienna will be the venue for a U.N. conference on post-war Iraq.