Annan urges bigger UN Iraq role

The secretary general of the United Nations has called for the organisation to be given a broader mandate in Iraq.
The United States would otherwise find it "very difficult" to pass a new resolution at the UN Security Council on expanding military forces on the ground, Kofi Annan said.

He was speaking in New York after talks with UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who earlier ruled out any diluting of US military leadership in Iraq.

Mr Annan also said that the UN was largely counting on the US-led coalition to provide its staff with security in Iraq since Tuesday's bomb attack on its Baghdad offices.

"It is not excluded that the [Security] Council may decide to transform the operation into a UN-mandated, multinational force operating on the ground with other governments coming in," he said.

"It would imply not just burden-sharing but also sharing decisions and responsibility with the others. If that doesn't happen, I think it is going to be very difficult to get a second resolution that will satisfy everybody."

The BBC's Greg Barrow reports from the UN that many countries have expressed a willingness to assist in Iraq but they do not want the stigma of serving under an occupying force which has yet to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Coalition protection

Mr Straw said on Thursday that the US must keep command of the joint military force in Iraq to maintain "an effective military operation".

The UN secretary general called for all further discussions on the new resolution in Iraq to be held behind closed doors.

The body of the UN's envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was flown out of Iraq on Friday for a wake in Brazil before his funeral in France.

Mr Vieira de Mello was killed along with at least 21 others in Tuesday's unprecedented attack on the UN, which was apparently a suicide bombing.

Mr Annan confirmed that a UN team was heading for Baghdad on Friday to assess the security situation for staff there.

"We will need to work with the coalition that has the capacity and has the responsibility for law and order in Iraq to give us their help," he added.

Peacekeepers, not occupiers

A French deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Michel Duclos, said earlier that the coalition must share "information and authority" if it was to win military support from other states.

Axel Poniatovski, a member of the foreign affairs committee in the French National Assembly, told the BBC that it was "difficult to understand why the US, today, wouldn't want to be under a UN mandate".

Hisham Yusuf, a spokesman for the Arab League, said Arab states might consider contributing troops but not while the US-led occupation continued.

In Islamic Iran, former president and leading cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani echoed the sentiment in a Friday Prayers sermon:

"If the UN is put in charge, many great countries around the world will help. The Russians will come. The Germans will come. The French will come. The Indians will come. Islamic countries will come. They will try to somehow solve the problem that the Americans have created, the tragedy that they have brought upon our region."

Mr Straw said on Friday that nobody was telling the Security Council what to do.

"We want a consensus," he said after his talks with Kofi Annan, "and we're consulting here and with governments in their capital cities."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3174325.stm