U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the latest bombings in and around Basra will affect his thinking about the return of U.N. staff to Iraq.
Mr. Annan said that he is keeping a close eye on the increasing violence in southern Iraq. He told reporters the Basra attacks are yet another sign of the need for extreme caution in any decision to redeploy U.N. staff.
"Obviously it is an indication the violence has spread to Basra, and it is not comforting," he said. "We have all been anxious to see attempts to reduce violence succeed. Not for it to spread, and of course the security situation on the ground has an important impact on our activities."
The secretary-general gave no indication that the world body would back away from taking on a lead role in Iraq after the June 30 handover of sovereignty, but he said a multinational security force will clearly be needed in Iraq for some time.
"I do not think any possibility that a U.N. peacekeeping force would be deployed to Iraq to take the work of the multinational force, and yet there is need for assistance in the effort to create a secure environment," he added. "So some international military presence is required for the foreseeable future to fill that bridge, and I do not [believe] it can be or ought to be U.N. peacekeepers."
Mr. Annan also hinted that regional powers are being called on to make greater contributions to efforts to stabilize Iraq after June 30, possibly diminishing the U.S. role. He noted that his envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has been in touch with several regional leaders as he formulates a proposal for future U.N. involvement in Iraq, and said the plan could only succeed with the support of Iraq's neighbors.