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Iraqi minister tells UN to stop sniping, start helping
( 2003-12-17 10:22) (Agencies)

Iraq's foreign minister told the UN Security Council to stop bickering over the war that brought down Saddam Hussein and come together to help rebuild his shattered nation.

In a pointed address delivered with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on hand, Hoshyar Zebari said the United Nations had failed to stand up to Saddam to defend the Iraqi people, and called for a swift UN return to the country.

Iraq's interim foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari talks to the press. Zebari told the UN Security Council to stop bickering over the war and focus on rebuilding Iraq.  [AFP/File] 
"One year ago, the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable," Zebari told the 15-nation council, which was sharply divided over the war.

"The UN as an organisation failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny of 35 years. The UN must not fail the Iraqi people again."

Annan, who publicly opposed the US decision to launch the war after failing to win the support of the Security Council, said it was "no time to pin blame and point fingers" over the past.

"I think the UN has done as much as it can for Iraq," Annan said. "So quite honestly I don't think today is the time to hurl accusations."

The United States is hoping Saturday's capture of Saddam will be able to get the council to unite behind its plans to rebuild the country and hand over power to Iraqis by the end of June.

But the bitter divisions over the war have repeatedly threatened to bubble back to the surface as the council haggles over how to handle Iraq's future.

"The fact that the war was won doesn't make legitimate something that was not legitimate," France's UN ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said after the council meeting. "But this is the past."

Key opponents of the war on the Security Council, including France, Germany and Russia, now are opposed to the United States overseeing the rebuilding and political transition, and want a larger role for the United Nations.

But France and Germany did step toward reconciliation with the United States on Tuesday, in agreeing to call for a substantial reduction of Iraq's staggering 120 billion dollar debt next year.

Zebari said the bickering at the United Nations should be put aside and called on the council to find "consensus" on how to help with the task of rebuilding Iraq.

"Settling scores with the United States-led coalition should not be at the cost of helping to bring stability to the Iraqi people," he said.

"Squabbling over political differences takes a back seat to the daily struggle for security, jobs, basic freedoms and all the rights the UN is chartered to uphold."

Zebari also chided Annan for deciding to base his UN team for Iraq in Cyprus and Jordan because of security concerns.

But the UN chief again said Iraq remains too dangerous to bring back his international staff in force. He pulled personnel out of Baghdad several weeks after the suicide bombing of the UN's offices there, which killed 22 people.

"We need much greater clarity on what is expected of the United Nations by Iraqis and by the coalition in terms of assistance to the political transition," Annan told the council.

"In taking the difficult decisions that lie ahead, 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 fulfil," he said.

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