December 4, 2006
The unrest in Iraq is "much worse" than a civil war, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC in an interview to be broadcast Monday. He said some Iraqis were right to think that they were worse off than under dictator Saddam Hussein, ousted from power after US-led forces invaded in March 2003.
The UN chief voiced his regrets over the invasion, saying it could have been stopped had UN weapons inspectors been given more time to conduct their work, and he added that the wounds had still not healed in the UN. On the sectarian violence, Annan said: "When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war - this is much worse," he said. He described Iraq as being in an extremely dangerous situation and raised concerns about the Iraqis' ability to solve these problems by themselves.
But Iraqi President Jalal Talabani rejected Sunday Annan's idea of an international peace conference on Iraq, leaving the proposal dead in the water. "We are an independent, sovereign nation and it is we who decide the fate of the nation." The president's comments, reported in an email sent by Talabani's office, were made after he met in Baghdad with US Congressman Christopher Shays, a Republican representative from Connecticut.
Last Tuesday, Annan had suggested the international community hold a broad-based peace conference to find a way out of the vicious sectarian struggle that has plunged Iraq into bloodshed. Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq's top Shiite politicians, said Saturday in Amman it would be "unrealistic" to debate Iraq's future outside the country and that Iraq's elected government was the only party qualified to find a solution to the conflict.
Despite Talabani's rejection, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called on Arab countries Sunday to take practical measures to support his government and revive a proposal to hold a reconciliation conference. "We have asked Egypt to take the lead and ensure a unified Arab political position in support of the elected Iraqi government," Zebari told reporters in Cairo. "We need practical initiatives." "We have stressed our support and the need for implementation of the initiative sponsored by the Arab League, which has received the support of all countries," he said after talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmad Abu al-Gheit.
The Arab League-sponsored reconciliation conference had been due to be held earlier this year, but has been repeatedly put off. The conference was expected to discuss the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and a wider representation of Sunni Arabs in the government. Foreign ministers of the 10 countries which make up the Arab League's Iraq committee are expected to meet in Cairo on Tuesday.
More Information on Statements Against the War and Occupation of Iraq
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