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Annan Downplays Differences Over US Draft Resolution on Iraq - 2003-09-15

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has downplayed disagreements among the permanent five Security Council members on a U.S. draft resolution on Iraq. The Secretary-General says there is still much work to be done before there is agreement on the draft U.S. resolution to broaden international involvement in Iraq. But he said the disagreements are not as great as they have been portrayed in the media.

"Everybody agrees we should turn over power to the Iraqis as soon as possible," said Mr. Annan. "All five in Geneva agreed. I think the disagreements have been overplayed in the press, quite frankly. I think there are objectives which are shared, the question is how best to organize ourselves to get it done."

Mr. Annan repeatedly cautioned reporters not to give the impression that the United Nations was planning to take over Iraq. He said the world body clearly has a role to play. But he emphasized that the proposal being considered is only aimed at assisting Iraqis in administering their own territories.

"Some people, when they talk about U.N. role, seem to think the U.N. is going to take over the country and run it," he said. "That has never been the issue. Nor is the U.N. interested in taking over security aspects and putting blue helmets on the ground.

"So we have to be clear what it is the United Nations is being asked to do," he continued. "We have had good experience in facilitating political processes, helping countries that have been in difficulty reestablish democratically elected governments, but we are not going to go in and run Iraq."

Mr. Annan said it is difficult to talk in terms of a timetable for returning sovereignty to Iraqis. He said some Security Council members are thinking in terms of two timetables, one short-term schedule for establishment of an interim Iraqi government, then a longer-term timetable for a democratically-elected government.

Some nations, led by France, have been pushing for an interim government to be in place in Baghdad within one month. France is also demanding that the entire transition to democracy be overseen by the United Nations, rather than the U.S. led occupation.