Iraq

Iraq's destruction of missiles 'positive' but still much more to be done - Annan

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United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called Iraq's destruction of banned Al Samoud 2 missiles and its offer to provide more details on its VX nerve gas and anthrax a "positive development" but repeated the views of UN weapons inspectors that "there's much more to be done."
Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan stressed the importance of unity within the Security Council, which is wrestling with two plans for moving forward on Iraq's disarmament: a draft resolution tabled by Spain, United Kingdom and United States declaring that Iraq has failed to take the "final opportunity" to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction, and a French-German-Russian memorandum calling for bulked up and continued UN inspections.

The different approaches before the Security Council were part of the democratic process, the Secretary-General said. "We are trying to resolve a very difficult issue and various members have put forward proposals to try and resolve the differences in the hope that one can bring the Council together for them to work in unity," he said. "I've always maintained it is when they work in unity that they are their most effective."

Warning against action outside the UN, the Secretary-General said: "There are suggestions that if the Security Council does not vote for action, then its credibility would be mortally wounded. I tend to believe that if the Council were to manage to come together and resolve this crisis effectively and successfully, the credibility and the influence of the Council will be enhanced. On the other hand, if the action were to be taken outside Council authority, the support for that action - popular and otherwise - would also be diminished."

Mr. Annan added that the UN is much larger than the Iraqi crisis, saying that it was overstating the case to say that it would go the way of the League of Nations if the Security Council did not vote one way. "I think the historical comparisons are not as simple as it appears," he said. "The Iraq crisis in one of the issues we're dealing with. Yes, it's the most important one today. But we're dealing with economic, social, humanitarian and other issues. We're dealing with many other crises around the world."

He also said he had been in touch with various governments but discounted a visit by himself to Iraq at this time. "I have indicated that, obviously as Secretary-General, my good offices are always available," he said. "But in the present circumstances, I'm not sure what a visit to Iraq would achieve and what message one would take to Iraq."

Meanwhile in Iraq today, UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) teams supervised the destruction of three more Al Samoud 2 missiles, bringing the total to 19 since 1 March, as well as a launcher, five engines and the second and last missile casting chamber. A biological team inspected the Ibn Fernas Centre, which is involved in the development and production of remote piloted vehicles (RPVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). UNMOVIC also conducted two more private interviews, one with a manager associated with Iraq's former chemical weapons programme.