U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has come under criticism from U.S. officials in Geneva for remarks he made Thursday about Iraq at the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Mr. Annan urged coalition forces in Iraq to abide by international conventions, which the United States says its forces are already doing. Secretary-general Annan told the Human Rights Commission that coalition forces must prepare the way for what he called a new era of human rights in Iraq, and that they must abide by international law in the process.
"I hope the Coalition will set an example by making clear that they intend to act strictly within the rules set down by the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, and by demonstration through their actions that they will accept the responsibility of the Occupying Power for public order and safety, and the well being of the civilian population," Mr. Annan said.
Mr. Annan went on to say that deep divisions were created by the decision to go to war, in his view, without specific authorization by the U.N. Security Council. He said those divisions must be bridged if issues related to Iraq and other major international challenges are to be addressed effectively.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Kevin Moley, called Mr. Annan's remarks a serious misstatement. He said the United States has made clear by both word and deed that it is upholding its responsibilities to Iraqi civilians and prisoners of war.
"There should be no question, certainly not in the mind of the secretary- general, that we need to make any clearer than we already have and have been on the record repeatedly as being in conformance and wanting to be in conformance in every way with the Geneva Conventions," Ambassador Moley said.
The leader of the U.S. delegation to the Human Rights Commission, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, called Mr. Annan's remarks on what he called a lack of authorization for the war objectionable.
"I think this is very inaccurate and is not consistent with other views that the secretary-general has expressed on other occasions and not an accurate description of what actually transpired," she said.
Ambassador Kirkpatrick said the United States went to war in Iraq with the backing of U.N. Security Council resolutions 678, 687 and 1441. She said those resolutions called on Iraq to fulfill the terms of the first Gulf War cease-fire, namely to provide verifiable proof that it destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction.
But the U.S. delegation did give strong support to Mr. Annan's challenge to the Human Rights Commission to take a more forceful role in promoting and protecting human rights.
Critics have called the Commission a club for rights abusers. Mr. Annan argued if the Commission's mandate is to be strengthened, each country on the Commission must ensure that it is upholding rights at home first. He also said the divisions and power plays between geographic blocs at the Commission should stop.