- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2001

NEW YORK Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday paid a courtesy call to Kofi Annan, the head of the United Nations, his first official visit to "foreign" soil.
Mr. Powell stressed that Washington plans to work closely with the United Nations, especially now that the "irritant" of the arrears issue is largely resolved. And he urged diplomats not to read anything negative into the fact that no U.N. ambassador had yet been named.
"I took the opportunity this afternoon in our conversation to express to the secretary-general our strong support, the president's strong support, of the work of the U.N., and we look forward to working closely with the secretary-general and our other colleagues inside the U.N.," Mr. Powell told reporters yesterday.
He did not say, however, whether the Bush administration supports another term for Mr. Annan, who is said to be considering it.
"I don't know he wants a second term," Mr. Powell told reporters with a smile as the two walked from the microphone. Mr. Annan's five-year tenure expires in December, and requires the approval of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
Mr. Powell also indicated that the Bush administration would remain firm in its demands that Iraq cooperate with international inspectors to prove it is free of proscribed weapons of mass destruction.
"We are constantly looking at ways to make it possible for us to be assured that there are no weapons of mass destruction and there are programs under way that would produce weapons of mass destruction," he said, and emphasized sympathy for the humanitarian suffering of the Iraqi people.
A delegation is arriving here from Baghdad at the end of the month to demand that increasingly unpopular U.N. sanctions be lifted.
"The initiative should be in Baghdad, for them to do what is required and what is right," Mr. Powell said. He declined to offer any new thinking within the administration but noted that "it would be presumptuous of me to suggest to the secretary-general what he might or might not talk about" during the meetings on Feb. 26-27.
Nonetheless, he indicated that Washington would refuse to ease up on the sanctions.
Mr. Powell and Mr. Annan touched briefly on a global laundry list of trouble spots in their hourlong meeting, said aides, who described the visit as more of a get-acquainted session than an opportunity for deep strategy. Mr. Annan is expected to visit Washington for a meeting with President Bush next week.
Both men yesterday told reporters they were delighted to start a new era in U.S.-U.N. relations without having to debate the U.S. financial responsibilities to the organization.
The Senate last Wednesday approved release of nearly $600 million in payment to the U.N. peacekeeping fund, taking care of a large portion of funds owed to the world body by the United States.
The relationship is "on a very good footing, particularly now that we have removed the main irritation that we have had for some time," said Mr. Annan.
"This is my first visit outside Washington to another land, and it happens to be the land in which I was born and raised," said Mr. Powell with a chuckle. Mr. Powell was raised in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood.

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