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Kofi Annan Speaks in Virginia

Aired February 8, 2003 - 11:13   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. As promised, we want to take you to you Williamsburg, Virginia, to William and Mary College, where U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is there to help celebrate the college's 310th anniversary. He's also going to be accepting an honorary degree, and he will be delivering a speech, which the primary focus is Iraq. He will likely be talking about how the world needs to be awaiting for the U.N. Security Council's endorsement on perhaps giving Iraq a little bit more time, at least delaying any prospects of war. He is likely to be saying that the U.N. Council, the Security Council, is filled with members who have great experience in two world wars, and the U.N. wants anything but to endorse or encounter yet another war. Let's listen in now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... for bringing new light to the U.N. The United Nations also was honored for being the only negotiable road to global peace and cooperation. The world is indeed fortunate to have you where you are. North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, the Middle East, Ivory Coast, Cyprus, Congo and Zimbabwe. The HIV pandemic, African famine and terrorism are but among some of the most prominent challenges facing the people of this earth. Your capable leadership and your ability to bridge differences of opinion have meant more. You offer the world its ultimate source of salvation -- reason.

You spoke recently of your wish when you conclude your present work to become a farmer. But I do not think the world will let your graceful intelligence or your extraordinary experience slip away without some resistance. Mr. Secretary-general, we need you right where you are.

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Kofi Annan, in recognition of your efforts to bring peace to a world torn by hatred and misunderstanding, to return to reason, nation control of intolerance, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people across the globe to rise above their worst instincts and realize their greatest potential.

The College of William & Mary is proud to honor you. By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Board of Visitors (ph) and the Ancient Royal Charter of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, I hereby confer upon you the degree of doctor of public service, honorary.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Ladies and gentlemen, faculty and students, it is a great honor for me to receive this honorary degree and all the more so to share it with General Zinni and Mr. Brinkley, whose contribution to global peace and prosperity richly deserve this recognition.

It is also a great pleasure for Nan and me to be with you on this special day. My only sadness, which I share with all of you, is that this year your celebration is muted by last week's Columbia shuttle tragedy, and especially by the loss of one of this college's outstanding sons, David Brown, as we heard from the president earlier.

As you know, his fate was shared by equally brilliant colleagues of diverse backgrounds, including two from India and Israel. The exploration of space transcends all boundaries, and the loss of Columbia is a loss for all humankind. Indeed, it is one of those moments when we are reminded that we all belong to a single human family.

Today, that family faces a time of acute anxiety.

There is deep unease about escalating violence in the Middle East, nuclear proliferation, and the possibility of new terror attacks. And of course, there is a great anxiety in this country and throughout the world about the prospect of war in Iraq.

Many people are asking what the United Nations is doing to avert that prospect. Was our organization not founded to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war? Yes, it was. Our founders had lived through two world wars. They knew well the terrible devastation and suffering that war brings with it, and they were determined to spare the world from experiencing such agony again.

We must never lose sight of that vision. War is always a human catastrophe, a course that should only be considered when all other possibilities have been exhausted and when it's obvious that the alternative is worse.


If war comes to Iraq again, it may cause terrible loss and suffering to the Iraqi people and perhaps to their neighbors too. We all, and first and foremost the leaders of Iraq itself, have a duty to prevent it if we possibly can.


But our founders were not pacifists. They knew there would be times when force must be met with force. And therefore, they wrote into the charter of the United Nations strong enforcement provisions to enable the world community to unite against aggression and defeat it.

Twelve years ago, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Security Council and the United Nations did just that. First, the Security Council gave the invader a clear alternative of peaceful withdrawal. Then when he rejected that offer, the Council authorized the use of force.

It was a grim choice, but a necessary one. The Security Council did not shake its responsibility.

Under its authority, a broad coalition of forces was patiently assembled under United States leadership. No less than 11 of the 26 countries that sent forces to help free Kuwait were Muslim countries. There is a lesson there that remains highly relevant today.

Unfortunately, Iraq has still not complied with all the obligations it accepted in 1991 under the terms of the cease-fire agreement. In particular, it has not yet satisfied the Security Council that it has fully disarmed itself of weapons of mass destruction.

This is an issue not for one state alone, but for the international community as a whole. When states decide to use force, not in self-defense but to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations Security Council.


States and peoples around the world attach fundamental importance to such legitimacy and to the international rule of law.

One clear example of such a broader threat is the horror threatened by weapons of mass destruction. This is an issue of utmost gravity, by no means confined to Iraq, which obliges the whole international community to reexamine very carefully the foundations of its security.

It is vitally important that it does so in a united way, so as to achieve greater security by strengthening and not weakening or undermining the multilateral treaties on disarmament and nonproliferation.

Only collective, multilateral approach can effectively curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and make the world a safer place.

Nothing, of course, would undermine that goal more fatally than the actual use of weapons of mass destruction. I must therefore solemnly warn all parties to forswear any use of such weapons in Iraq or anywhere else.


Any person who ordered or took part in their use would incur the gravest responsibility. But let us hope such fears will prove baseless.

As the United Nations, we have the duty to exhaust all possibilities of peaceful settlement before resorting to the use of force.

Just three months ago, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1441, giving a new, more authoritative and robust mandate to the United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq. This resolution was negotiated with patience and persistence and, as a result, was adopted unanimously. That gives it even greater authority, an authority based on law, collective effort and the unique legitimacy of the United Nations. This was multilateral diplomacy at its best, serving the course of peace and security.

Under this resolution's authority, U.N. inspectors returned to Iraq after an absence of four years. Inspections can work, as we know from the experience of the early 1990s. Then, U.N. inspectors destroyed many more weapons and facilities than all of the bombing had done.


Today, it is thanks in large part to the firm challenge issued by President Bush and the pressure that followed it that the inspectors are back in Iraq.


On 27 January, they gave the Security Council their first report, and they will give a second report next Friday.

There is total unanimity as to what Iraq must do: Iraq must disarm, and must do so proactively. That message has been conveyed by a united Security Council, by the Arab League and by Iraq's neighbors.

There is also universal confidence in the two chief inspectors, Dr. Blix, and Dr. ElBaradei. They are doing a very professional job.

This weekend, they are back in Baghdad, making clear to the Iraqi authorities once again what it must do to comply, both in spirit and letter, with the obligation to disarm.

The strong presentation by Secretary Powell in the Security Council last Wednesday has undoubtedly strengthened their hand.

If we succeed in getting Iraq to comply fully and disarm, by effective and credible inspections, then the prize is great: Iraq would no longer be a threat to its neighbors, and we would send a very powerful message to all other countries that are tempted to develop and acquire weapons of mass destruction. We would strengthen the nonproliferation regime throughout the world.

In Resolution 1441, the Council decided to convene immediately if any further material breach of Iraq's obligation or any interference by Iraq with inspection activities is reported to it.

The Council also recalled, in that context, that it had repeatedly warned Iraq that it would face serious consequences as a result of his continued violation of his obligations.

Thus, if Iraq fails to make use of this last chance and continues this defiance, the Council will have to make another grim choice based on the findings of the inspectors, a choice more complex and perhaps more fateful than the one that faced it 1990. And when that time comes, the Council must face up to its responsibilities.


In my experience, it always does so best when -- and most effectively, when its members work in unison. The Council should proceed in a determined, reflective, deliberative manner. Its measures and actions must be seen as firm, effective, credible and reasonable, not only by the Council members but by the public at large.

If the Council stands united, as it did in adopting Resolution 1441, it will have a greater impact and a better chance of achieving this objective, which must be a comprehensive solution that brings the Iraqi people, who have suffered so much, fully back into the international community.

Success in diplomacy means maximizing one's base of support. In current circumstances, it means enhancing the authority of the Security Council and reinforcing world order, particularly in the area of peace and security.


That is important because what happens in Iraq does not take place in a vacuum. It has implications, for better or worse, for other issues of great importance to the United States and to the world.

For instance, it will greatly affect the climate in which we conduct our struggle against international terrorism. The broader our consensus on Iraq, the better the chance that we can come together again and deal effectively with all the other burning conflicts in the world. And you heard many of them recited earlier this morning.

These conflicts cause untold suffering, and they need urgent attention from Israel and Palestine, to Congo, to Cote d'Ivoire, not to mention our efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Even beyond that, beyond these issues, we have a wider international agenda which all the world's leaders set up for us when they came together at the United Nations during the Millennium Summit in the year 2000.

They adopted the Millennium Declaration, setting themselves not only clear targets for peace, security and disarmament, but also for development and poverty eradication, especially in Africa; for protecting our common environment; fighting HIV-AIDS; promoting education for boys and girls alike, particularly girls; helping refugees and displaced persons; and upholding human rights, democracy and good governance.

It is by our success or failure in fulfilling those millennium goals, and not just in Iraq, that the role of the United Nations in the 21st century will be assessed. We all need to understand that the United Nations is not a separate or an alien entity seeking to impose its will and agenda on others. The United Nations is us. It is you and me. It is a global alliance of 191 states, all of which have their own contribution to make. Among them, your country, the United States. It's not only the most powerful, but also the one that played a leading role in the founding of the United Nations in 1945 and in its collective action ever since.

When there is strong U.S. leadership exercised through patient diplomatic persuasion and coalition building, the United Nations is successful and the United States is successful. The United Nations is most useful to all its members, including the United States, when it is united...


... rather than discord.

I ask all Americans present to keep this in mind, and especially you, the students of this great college with long tradition of community service.

Many of you are about to choose your career. I hope a good number of you will go into public service. You may not earn much...


... but you will be happy and fulfilled. I hope a good number of you will also do something about public service regardless of whatever profession you choose.

You will be seeking, and continue to seek, I hope, to serve the public and to contribute to the welfare, not only of your own country, of your own, but also to all your fellow human beings, especially those who live in poverty and misery on other continents and yearn for lives of freedom, free from fear, and free from persecution. So help these people in these distant places living in misery, living in poverty, to be free from want and free from fear.

Thank you very much.


WHITFIELD: You're listening to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, as he accepts an honorary degree from William & Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, but he's also taking the opportunity to address the issue of Iraq. He acknowledges that there is great anxiety around the world about the prospect of war with Iraq. He says, yes, Iraq has failed to comply with its obligations, but he says it is not an issue for any one state. He stopped short of saying the U.N. would eventually back a war with Iraq, but he said, as a collective body, the U.N. would, quote, "face up to its responsibility."

Bottom line, he says, the U.N. must prevent war if possible by maximizing diplomacy. He says the U.N. is us, a global alliance of 191 states; it is you and me. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan accepting an honorary degree from William & Mary College.


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