- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday he wants U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Iraq as soon as hostilities end a decision the Bush administration says comes too early.
Mr. Annan also rejected accusations from Saddam Hussein's regime that he is helping the United States and Britain to colonize Iraq.
As coalition forces advance into Iraq with the objective of uncovering weapons of mass destruction, questions have arisen about who would verify any suspected discoveries U.S. experts accompanying the troops or the U.N. inspectors.
"The expectation is that as soon as the conflict is over and the situation permits, [the inspectors] will able to resume their work," Mr. Annan told reporters at the United Nations.
The inspection team, which pulled out of Iraq days before the start of hostilities, "still has the responsibility for the disarmament of Iraq, and if the situation permits, they will be expected to go back to Iraq and inspect," he said.
Reports appeared over the weekend that coalition forces discovered a factory in central Iraq that they suspected of making chemical weapons. Mr. Annan also said inspectors would investigate those reports.
But Washington refused to commit to allowing the inspectors to return, saying their future will depend on what happens in Iraq after the war's end.
"How the [Security] Council may decide to use the inspectors in the future I guess is an open question," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
On Thursday Mr. Boucher said, "The question of whether they will become necessary, useful or have a future role for international inspections, I think it's just too early to tell at this point.
"But I would say that when we find the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq I'm sure we'll want to make it known that those exist in order to reassure the international community that they can be destroyed safely," he said.
Mr. Annan, asked to respond to Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan's charges on Sunday that he was helping the U.S.-led coalition colonize Iraq, said he understood the "anger" and "frustration" of Saddam's regime but was simply doing his job.
"The U.N. or I have no interest in becoming a high commissioner, and it is ironic that as a former colonial subject, I will be accused of being a colonialist," said the secretary-general, whose native Ghana was under British rule until 1957. He was born in 1938.
Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, accused Mr. Annan on Friday of planning to revamp the U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq under dictation from the United States and Britain, and to turn the region "into colonies under the control of the world American and Zionist oil mafia."
Mr. Annan said he was working with the Security Council to revise the program, begun in late 1996, so that aid could resume to help feed the Iraqi people as soon as possible. The Bush administration has endorsed giving Mr. Annan authority to administer that program, which was suspended after military action began.
"The council and myself are determined to do whatever we can to keep that pipeline open," he said, adding that 60 percent of Iraq's 23 million people depend on the oil-for-food program.
Mr. Annan, citing a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross, also expressed concern that Basra, with 1.2 million people Iraq's second largest city, "may be facing a humanitarian disaster" because of a lack of water and electricity.
But British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons in London that 40 percent of Basra's water system had been reconnected.k

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