U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as a special adviser on peace and security issues. The appointment came as Mr. Brahimi was briefing the Security Council on his recently-completed mission as U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan.
The 70-year-old Mr. Brahimi had expressed a desire to take it easy following his second grueling two-year stint in Afghanistan. Instead, the former Algerian foreign minister and U.N. troubleshooter is being given the title of undersecretary-general, taking on such delicate issues as Iraq.
Mr. Brahimi said he will be a senior adviser to Secretary-General Annan. But he will not take over the Iraq portfolio that has been vacant since the death of special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
"Definitely not what has been said is that I would be in charge of Iraq," he said. "That's definitely not the case."
Nevertheless, it is significant that Mr. Brahimi, who is widely respected in Western capitals, is moving to the Secretary General's inner circle just as Mr. Annan is considering the U.N.'s role in Iraq.
Mr. Brahimi said he did not know whether he would participate in the secretary-general's meetings Monday with leaders of the Iraqi Governing Council and the administrator of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer.
Thursday, however, Mr. Brahimi's attention was focused on his previous assignment - Afghanistan. He and the secretary-general both addressed the Security Council.
In his remarks, Mr. Annan hailed the adoption of a new Afghan constitution. He suggested now would be the time for a followup to the Bonn conference of 2001 - to re-energize the Afghan political transition that began there.
"I have suggested that the international community, the Afghan government and all Afghans committed to peace in their country should come together, assess the progress made, and make the necessary commitments to complete the transition," said Mr. Annan.
Mr. Brahimi seemed to disagree with the Secretary-General. He said many experts argue that there are better ways to help Afghanistan than calling a large conference. But he warned that whatever is done must be done quickly.
"The success of the constitutional Loya Jirga and the political debate that began does offer hope, but it is a success that must be quickly capitalized on, lest it does no more than raise false expectations," he said.
Mr. Brahimi later said he had concluded that it would be a mistake to try to hold presidential and legislative elections in Afghanistan by a June target date. But he said it might be possible to hold a presidential vote soon after that, possibly within a few months, and certainly by the end of this year.