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Annan:  Security Council Must Make Needs of Iraqi People First Priority - 2003-04-30

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged Security Council members to put aside their differences and make their first priority the needs of the Iraqi people.

Deep division over the use of force in Iraq characterized the Security Council for months leading to the war. But now, as the U.S.-led coalition approaches rebuilding the war-torn country, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is calling for the Security Council to unite on a post-war agenda.

"The council now has a chance to leave behind earlier disagreements and find unity of purpose in the post-war phase. Those decisions will not be easy, but they should not be impossible if you come keep some shared principle firmly in mind. As you debate them, I would urge you to set aside past division and ask yourselves what will help the Iraqi people most," he said.

Mr. Annan made his comments during an open session focusing on Iraq.

The secretary-general says that in the coming weeks the council will take up the important issues of lifting international sanctions, phasing out the oil-for-food program and debating the role of U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq.

Lifting the crippling punitive measures on Iraq that followed the first Gulf War has recently been a source of tension in the council.

Mr. Annan made an indirect plea to the council to act to bring an end to the sanctions. "I would trust you would also agree to the need to put an end to Iraq's isolation and help the people of Iraq as quickly as possible to establish conditions for normal life," he said.

The United States and Britain want the Security Council to immediately lift sanctions, since Saddam Hussein's government has been removed.

Last week, France, which opposed the war, made a surprise announcement in favor of lifting sanctions. But Russia has said it first wants U.N. inspectors to declare Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction.