"In the field of peace and security, the Security Council devotes more time and attention to Africa than to any other area, because unhappily Africa has more than its share of conflicts," Mr. Annan said in the statement that was delivered on his behalf by Ibrahim Gambari, UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa.
The Summit, which aims to educate the American public about Africa and to help guide US relations with the African countries, was opened this morning by President Bill Clinton.
Among the conflicts of particular concern, Mr. Annan pointed to Angola, where the search for peace was "protracted and frustrating." In Sierra Leone, where last year's Lomé Agreement has brought a real, if still fragile, hope of lasting peace, the UN now had a large peacekeeping force on the ground, and was doing everything it could to help implement the accord, the Secretary-General said.
In another trouble spot, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN was anxiously awaiting the adoption of a Security Council resolution which would authorize the deployment of 500 military observers, backed up by over 5,000 military personnel.
But here the international community had to understand, Mr. Annan emphasized, that this relatively small United Nations force, with its "very restricted" mandate, would not be able to guarantee protection of the civilian population.
"I stress this point because I do not want people serving under the United Nations flag, and doing their best to carry out the mandate given them by the Security Council, to be held responsible for circumstances beyond their control," he said.
"The Member States of the United Nations must not blame us later for failing in tasks they neither equipped nor mandated us to perform," the Secretary-General stressed.