U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he expects senior U.S. officials to come to New York this month for talks on Iraq. Leaders of the Iraqi Governing Council will be there. But the Bush administration has been non-committal about its attendance.
Mr. Annan says the meeting he has called for January 19 is for senior leaders. Both this month's and next month's presidents of the Iraqi Governing Council will attend. So, in all likelihood, will the top British diplomat in Iraq, Jeremy Greenstock.
But when asked who would represent the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority that rules Iraq, Mr. Annan had no answer. "I don't have a list of their delegation, but I do expect the U.S. to participate," he said. Asked by reporters if he knew who will head the delegation, Mr. Annan replied that he did not know.
Mr. Annan first proposed the meeting last month in a phone call to President Bush. Since then, he has been in regular touch with Secretary of State Colin Powell and other U.S. officials in hopes of persuading them to send top coalition officials based in Iraq. But so far, he's received no firm response.
"I would expect the meeting to be at the senior level," said Mr. Annan. "The Iraqi delegation will be led by Mr. Pachachi, who is the president of the Governing Council. I myself will participate, and I would expect the U.S. government to send a senior delegation, hopefully including people from Baghdad."
The diplomatic maneuvering stems from differing ideas of how Iraq's transition to self-rule should be accomplished.
Mr. Annan says he wants coalition officials to spell out at the January 19 meeting just what they want the United Nations to do until the end of June, when a provisional government is scheduled to take power. U.S. officials counter that there is no need for such discussions, because the U.N. role is clearly defined in U.N. Security Council resolutions already on the books.
The secretary-general said Monday he will not send U.N. staff back to Baghdad until security concerns are addressed. In the meantime, the world body will continue to operate its Iraq programs out of offices in nearby Jordan and Cyprus.