Annan welcomes Security Council vote on aid to Iraq urges speedy action

“I think it augurs well for future tasks ahead of us,” Mr. Annan said after the vote. “We have many challenging questions and I hope we will be able to approach those tasks with the same spirit.”Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, the Secretary-General stressed the need to move very quickly, but noted that the military situation “will dictate how quickly we get back. We have been able to work very effectively on the ground over the years.”Noting that the Iraqi authorities have established 45,000 centres of distribution, he added: “We would hope, once we get there, depending on the situation on the ground, to be able to tap into that distribution network.”The issue of resuming food and medical supplies to Iraq has been a major concern ever since the suspension of the UN Oil-for-Food programme, which allows Baghdad to use part of its oil sales to buy relief supplies. The scheme was halted temporarily on 17 March when Mr. Annan ordered the withdrawal of all UN personnel from Iraq. Since then the Security Council has been discussing his proposals on the adjustments to the programme.Mr. Annan said he had discussed the humanitarian situation in Iraq with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday. Asked what role Mr. Blair wanted the Secretary-General to play in post-war Iraq in terms of governing, Mr. Annan stressed that the matter was up to the Security Council.”I think as to what role the UN will play down the line is an issue that is under discussion and the Council itself will have to give me a specific mandate for any additional responsibilities that the UN takes on in Iraq, over and beyond the humanitarian and the Oil-for-Food programme which they would endorse today.””We don’t know how this is all going to pan out, and how the post-conflict situation will look like on the ground in terms of security and other aspects,” he said. “The Council will have a chance to discuss all these issues and determine which role the UN would be.”Noting the differences of opinion over a UN role in post-conflict Iraq, Mr. Annan said: “Of course, there are certain ‘red lines’ for the Council, which as we move forward everybody has to be aware of. In my discussions with Council members they do not want to see any situation where the UN is subjugated to authority of a country or several countries.”Some are concerned that they should not be placed in a situation where they take initiatives or action which appears to legitimize the military action ex post facto,” he said. “Obviously, if the UN is going to be on the ground, we will have to determine the relationships between the UN, occupied Iraq and the occupying power. So there are lots of issues that would have to be tackled by the Council in discussions and determine what role the UN should play and to what extent.” Video of Kofi Annan speaking to reporters