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Annan criticizes Bush's 'pre-emptive' attack
( 2003-09-23 16:11) (Agencies)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized President Bush's "pre-emptive" attack on Iraq but urged world leaders Tuesday to set aside their disputes over the war and join forces to build a peaceful democracy in the troubled nation.

While Annan's opposition to the U.S. policy of pre-emptive strikes against perceived threats was likely to anger Bush, his strong appeal for global unity on Iraq's future was sure to win strong American support.

Bush is expected to make a similar appeal for global unity when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly shortly after Annan, during the first meeting of world leaders since the invasion of Iraq.

In his prepared address to Tuesday's opening of the assembly, released in advance, Annan challenged the 191 U.N. member states to re-examine the way the international community is dealing with wars, terrorism, poverty and other threats to international security.

His message was clear: The world should collectively address the threats from terrorists and weapons of mass destruction that spur such "pre-emptive" strikes.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld developed an argument for taking pre-emptive action against enemies who could launch a surprise chemical, biological or nuclear attacks.

The policy of using such strikes "could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification."

"But it is not enough to denounce unilateralism, unless we also face up squarely to the concerns that make some states feel uniquely vulnerable, and thus drive them to take unilateral action. We must show that those concerns can, and will, be addressed effectively through collective action," he said.

In his address to the U.N. meeting, Bush will make "a call to action" for the international community to work together "to support the emergence of a democratic, peaceful and free Iraq which is at peace with its neighbors in the Middle East," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.

"We think the international community has a strong interest in Iraq being a success," Negroponte said Monday. "None of us want Iraq to fail."

Annan virtually echoed those words in his prepared text.

"Whatever view each of us may take of the events of recent months, it is vital for all of us that the outcome is a stable and democratic Iraq at peace with itself and with its neighbors, and contributing to stability in the region," he said.

Last year, Bush came to the General Assembly to challenge its member states to confront the "grave and gathering danger" of Saddam Hussein's Iraq or stand aside as the United States acted alone.

In the months that followed, France, Germany, Russia and other nations opposed the war and were incensed when the United States attacked Iraq without Security Council approval.

This year, with mounting bills and U.S. casualties, Bush wants help from the United Nations and support for a U.S.-backed resolution that Washington hopes will encourage countries to contribute troops and money. But France, Germany and Russia want a larger U.N. political role and a much quicker transfer of power to the Iraqis than Washington is prepared to accept.

The friendship between France and the United States will always prevail over the countries' political differences, French President Jacques Chirac said Monday.

Chirac's comments, made as he inaugurated a French school in New York, came as the two nations try to avoid another showdown at the United Nations over Iraq.

"Events over the past few months have led to tension in relations between our countries. I want to share my personal conviction with all of you, however, that the friendship between France and the United States is deeply rooted in our history," Chirac said.

The key U.N. meeting comes after devastating bomb attacks against its headquarters in Baghdad in the past month have plunged the world body into mourning and raised questions about its future role.

"Subject to security considerations, the United Nations system is prepared to play its full part in working for a satisfactory outcome in Iraq, and to do so as part of an effort by the whole international community," Annan said in his prepared text.

Annan also urged the Security Council to demonstrate its ability to deal effectively with the most difficult issues and to become more representative of global realities.

The council may need to discuss how to respond to threats of genocide and other massive human rights violations, Annan said, noting that its response to massive killings and rights abuses in Congo and Liberia this year had been "hesitant and tardy."

How to tackle the postwar violence, insecurity and reconstruction of Iraq will be a prime issue among the 86 presidents and prime ministers, three vice presidents, and 99 foreign ministers gathering at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council has sent its president for September, Ahmad Chalabi, and its foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, to claim Iraq's seat.

Annan sent letters to all world leaders ahead of this week's meeting, challenging them to come up with new ideas to deal with wars, terrorism, poverty and other threats to international security.

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