USIS Washington 

19 February 1998


(Kofi Annan leaves for Baghdad on diplomatic mission)  (670)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The United States strongly supports the diplomatic
mission to Baghdad of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, but reserves
the right to oppose any agreement that is inconsistent with UN
Security Council resolutions, Bill Richardson, US Ambassador to the
world organization, said February 19.

Speaking with reporters after a private meeting of the Security
Council, Richardson said "we believe the Secretary General's trip is
very important. We hope he succeeds." Richardson called the Secretary
General's mission "most likely the last hope for a diplomatic

"That doesn't mean Saddam Hussein is off the hook. That means that
Saddam Hussein's problems will increase," he said. But Richardson
acknowledged that Annan's mission is "going to be tough" because "Iraq
is the one party that has to back down."

"The issue is clear," the Ambassador said, "Iraq has to back down.
They have to agree to full, unfettered inspections of all sites, no
conditions. They have to also agree to the full integrity of the U.N.
inspection team of UNSCOM (UN Special Commission overseeing the
destruction of Iraqi weapons). They have to abide by Security Council

"That's where the solution lies and either Iraq is going to accept it
or it isn't," Richardson said.

The United States has "always supported the Secretary General's going
to Baghdad," Richardson added. "We just want to make sure that it is
clear that Iraq is the one party that has to back down. It's not
anybody else backing down or seeking deals or compromises or wiggle

The United States believes it has "the right to oppose a potential
agreement that we feel is inconsistent with Security Council
resolutions and our own national interest. Every member state has that
(right)," Richardson said.

Annan left for Baghdad via Paris the morning of February 19. Leaving
New York's Kennedy International Airport, the Secretary General told
journalists that after extensive meetings with the five permanent
members of the council (China, France, Great Britain, Russia, and the
United States) he has "all the elements" he needs to meet with Iraqi
officials to try to advert a military strike by the United States.

When he meets with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Annan said, "I will
have to explain the situation very clearly and get him to understand
that it is in his best interest and in the interest of the Iraqi
people to agree to implement Security Council resolutions."

The Secretary General admitted that the relationship between the
United Nations and Iraq is "a rather difficult one."

"There is a great deal of suspicion on both sides and it is not going
to be easy to overcome that gulf and get (Saddam Hussein) to
understand what I have come to tell him," Annan said.

Annan said that he did not see any connection between his mission and
the failed mission to Iraq of his predecessor Secretary General Javier
Perez de Cuellar after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait but prior to the
Gulf War.

"In 1991 we hadn't seen the war," Annan said. "Iraq has been hit many
times and knows what happens when the international community decides
to use force. So I think that knowledge and that history should also
help in these discussions."

Meanwhile, a UN spokesman said February 19 that the UN team surveying
the eight presidential sites has finished its work. Two members of the
team are leaving Baghdad while the head of team is staying on to
assist the Secretary General during his talks.

The UN also said that 31 UN staff members have left Iraq and another
29 are expected to leave Baghdad February 20. The staff members are
considered non-essential and the evacuation was taken "as a

Currently 260 international staff work for the UN and UN agencies in
Baghdad including 120 UNSCOM staff. There are approximately 470 UN
international staff throughout the country.