USIS Washington 

05 March 1998


(Ambassador Prakash Shah of India appointed to UN post)  (770)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- A senior Indian diplomat has been appointed to a
newly-created UN position to help relations with Iraq, the UN
announced March 5.

Ambassador Prakash Shah, a former Indian envoy to the UN, has been
named by Secretary General Kofi Annan as the Secretary General's
special envoy in Baghdad for an initial period of six months. Shah,
who is expected to set up offices in the Iraqi capital before the end
of the month, will have a small team of international and local staff.

In a letter to the UN Security Council informing members of the
appointment, Annan said that as special envoy Shah "will follow
closely all developments relevant to the role of the United Nations
with regard to Iraq."

"He will lend his support to existing United Nations activities in the
arms control, humanitarian and economic and social fields while giving
special attention to any crisis or problem which might benefit from
intervention by United Nations headquarters," the Secretary General

Announcing Shah's appointment March 5, the Secretary General referred
"to the difficulties arising from time to time in the relations
between Iraq and the United Nations and to the need for improved lines
of communication between the Government of Iraq and my office in order
to help avert the development of such difficulties into a
fully-fledged crisis threatening to undermine international peace and
security in the area."

Annan has been talking of smoothing relations between the UN and Iraq
since undertaking his diplomatic mission to Baghdad to ease the
possibility of military strikes over Iraq's refusal to cooperate with
UN weapons inspectors.

The appointment is also the second high-level political/diplomatic one
concerning Iraq-UN relations since he returned from Baghdad. On
February 26, Annan named internationally known disarmament expert
Undersecretary General Jayantha Dhanapala, a former Sri Lankan
Ambassador to the UN, to head the new group of diplomats and weapons
inspectors that will visit Iraq's presidential sites. The UN Special
Commission overseeing the destruction of Iraq weapons (UNSCOM) gaining
access to the sites, which had been previously off-limits to UN
weapons inspectors, and the creation of the special group, are
included in the agreement negotiated in Baghdad by Annan and Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein.

Returning from Iraq, Annan spoke of a need to help Iraq cooperate with
the UN and ease itself back into the community of nations. The
Secretary General has also invited Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed
al-Sahhaf as well as the Minister of Trade and Minister of Health to
New York to discuss the problems of implementing the "oil-for food"
program which currently allows Iraq to sell $5,200 million worth of
oil every six months to buy humanitarian supplies for Iraqi civilians.
The program is carried out under very strict UN supervision.

The oil-for-food talks are slated to begin on March 9.

A UN spokesman said that the purpose of creating the special envoy
post "is really to have a political representative of the Secretary
General in Baghdad who can keep the Secretary General informed on the
government's reaction to the various UN programs going on there from
UNSCOM to the humanitarian office...and who can act as a vehicle for
communication for him to the government."

The Secretary General "was frankly surprised that he didn't have a
special representative there given the political importance of Iraq to
the United Nations these days," explained UN spokesman Fred Eckhard.

"So he felt it was a conspicuous lack and something that would be very
helpful to him," Eckhard said, adding that when the Secretary General
suggested the post to Security Council members "they were in full

The new special representative, the spokesman said, will not have any
supervisory responsibility over the directors of the major UN programs
in Iraq such as the "oil for food" and humanitarian assistance
programs or UNSCOM operations, but will be a "link between the
government and the Secretary General."

Shah, 59, was India's Ambassador to the UN from 1995 to July 1997 and
served as India's chief negotiator on Security Council reforms and
vice chairman of a working group on strengthening the UN system. He
was Ambassador to Japan from 1992-1995 and chief envoy to the UN in
Geneva in 1991 and 1992. He was also a member of the governing council
of the UN Compensation Fund which is overseeing payments to Kuwaitis
and others adversely affected by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.