Annan urges countries to work together to secure Iraq

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NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called yesterday for the five permanent Security Council members to work more closely to stabilize Iraq, saying he will convene their foreign ministers for talks.

The meeting is likely to take place Saturday in Geneva, he said at a news conference.

U.S. officials confirmed that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell would attend. The foreign ministers of France, China, Russia and Britain also are expected for the talks, which follow President Bush’s appeal on Sunday for more international support in Iraq.

“My own sense is that Iraq is of such importance that all of us will have to find a way of working together to stabilize Iraq,” Mr. Annan said. “It also means that countries have to listen to each other.”

The U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council, meanwhile, moved toward increased legitimacy when delegates to an Arab League meeting in Cairo agreed overnight to seat its foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari — a move that could open the door to broader international recognition.

After nearly six hours of closed-door talks, Arab League foreign ministers issued a statement that the Governing Council had been granted Iraq’s seat until a legitimate Iraqi government is formed and a new constitution is drawn up.

“We are claiming our legitimate right to be here and to be represented,” Mr. Zebari said on arrival in Cairo.

“Admission into the Arab League is a way of saying they are the real deal,” said Rajan Menon, professor of international relations at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

“This is the beginning of … what will be a long process,” he said, “but someone better hurry this along.”

The decision to admit the Iraqi delegate got a strong boost from Kuwait, a staunch supporter of American policies in the region since U.S.-led forces drove Iraqi troops from its territory in 1991.

“Kuwait and some other Arab countries are working to have them take their seat,” Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States, Sheik Salem Abdullah al-Jaber al-Sabah, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times earlier yesterday.

Other Arab states, while seeking to send a positive signal, had worried that full recognition of the Iraqi delegate would be seen as an endorsement of the war and the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

In New York, Mr. Annan refused to comment directly on Mr. Bush’s Sunday night address, in which he described the U.S.-led war in Iraq as a war on terrorism and asked that other nations step in with financial and military assistance.

But Mr. Annan did acknowledge that many governments want Washington to cede some political and military power before they get involved with the reconstruction.

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