- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

NEW YORK — Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari yesterday chastised war opponents at the U.N. Security Council — and the United Nations itself — for failing to help the Iraqi people during three decades of Saddam Hussein’s brutal reign.

Although he did not list names, France, Russia and Germany were prominent among the countries that had resisted a Security Council resolution authorizing the war in Iraq.

“One year ago, this Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable,” Mr. Zebari said dispassionately in an address to the 15-member council.

“The U.N. as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure. …

“The U.N. must not fail the Iraqi people again,” Mr. Zebari said in a plea for Secretary-General Kofi Annan to return international staffers to Baghdad for relief work and nation-building assistance.

“We call upon the members of the United Nations to look beyond their differences over the decision to go to war on Iraq and come together to forge an international consensus,” the foreign minister said.

“Settling scores with the United States should not be at the cost of helping to bring stability to the Iraqi people. This squabbling over political differences takes a back seat to [Iraqis] daily struggle for security, jobs, basic freedoms and all the rights the U.N. is chartered to uphold.”

Mr. Annan, as well as the ambassadors of France and Germany, seemed to accept the criticism.

“We all know what our positions were before the war,” said German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger.

“That’s an opinion [Mr. Zebari is] entitled to,” said Mr. Annan, adding that the organization had done all it could and was prepared to do more.

Speaking three days after Saddam’s capture by U.S. troops in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, Mr. Zebari promised to provide “whatever security is required” to bring the United Nations back to Iraq for an expanded role in “humanitarian relief, capacity- and nation-building, promoting sustainable development and advancing the electoral and political processes.”

“Your help and expertise cannot be effectively delivered from Cyprus or Amman,” he told Mr. Annan, who last week had outlined plans to base the United Nations’ Iraq mission in a safer country.

While expressing understanding for the losses the world body suffered on Aug. 19, when 22 of its staff were killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad, Mr. Zebari told reporters after the council meeting that the United Nations “has always worked in difficult and war-torn regions and crisis areas.”

“Why not Iraq? Why an exception? We are all, in fact, targets for those terrorists. It is not just the U.N. and the coalition.”

Mr. Annan, in remarks to the council, stressed that the United Nations had not disengaged from Iraq. But before U.N. staff could return to the country, Mr. Annan said, “much greater clarity” was required from the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) and the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority on what exactly is expected of the world body.

“I need to weigh the degree of risk that the United Nations is being asked to accept against the substance of the role we are being asked to fulfill,” he told the council.

Mr. Zebari was in New York to present to the Security Council a timetable for establishing an interim basic law and a transitional administration and, by the end of 2005, holding direct elections.

The schedule won the support of Mr. Annan and many council members, though several diplomats reminded Mr. Zebari that the process had to be open, inclusive and credible.

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, said former Ba’ath Party members should not be excluded from office as long as they renounce violence.

“The process should be open to all those against violence,” Mr. de la Sabliere said. “If you have all political forces against violence represented in the provisional government, then it will be huge progress.”

The question of security will remain in the forefront, many diplomats said yesterday, despite Saddam’s capture and the promise of a return to Iraqi sovereignty.

Mr. Zebari said the IGC would negotiate a status-of-forces agreement with the coalition by the end of February, but that he did not expect the troops to withdraw by July, when an all-Iraqi transitional authority is to be established.

“Those forces are needed to maintain stability, and if they were to withdraw, it would be a disaster,” Mr. Zebari told reporters after his council presentation. “There would be chaos, a civil war.”


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