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Kofi Annan Takes Some Questions from Reporters

Aired March 26, 2003 - 09:46   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now we go straight to the U.N., where the secretary general is speaking.
Let's listen in.


QUESTION: ... with Condoleezza Rice yesterday, the Americans are saying that they did discuss with you the post-war situation in Iraq. You're saying that they only listened to their views of it. Can you elucidate a little bit the situation?

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECY. GENERAL: We did discuss the humanitarian situation and the issue of the oil for food, as well as what lies ahead of us. We're talking about humanitarian situation. I must say, I was, I'm getting increasingly concerned by humanitarian casualties in this conflict. We just had the report that a missile struck a market in Baghdad, and I would want to remind all belligerents that they should respect international humanitarian law and take all necessary steps to protect civilians. Besides, they are responsible for the welfare of the civilian population in the area.

QUESTION: Reporter: did you discuss the reconstruction, sir, with them?

ANNAN: It's too far down the line. We didn't get into that.

QUESTION: What role can U.N. aid agencies have, at this point in the war, and what role will the U.N. have for post-war Iraq, specifically any kind of government aid, anything like that?

ANNAN: Yes, I think on the -- today, I am meeting with heads of U.N. humanitarian agencies this morning. They've all flown in to discuss this situation with me. And you know that we did have contingency planning of what we should do once a conflict has struck. So we will be reviewing the situation, and I think we are all ready, geared up to be able to go back to Iraq and resume their work as soon as the situation amiss, and here I'm referring to the military conflict, and as soon as that allows them to go in, they will go in and resume their work.

On the question of a post-conflict Iraq and what role the U.N. must -- may play, that is an issue for the council to decide. The U.N. has played such roles in the past, but obviously, it is something that the council will have to discuss, and now we'll be seeing Prime Minister Blair tomorrow, and I'm sure this is one of the issues he would also want to discuss with me. QUESTION: What would you recommend to the council in terms of what you think the U.N.'s role would be in post-war Iraq?

ANNAN: This is something I would want to discuss with the council. I'm sure the council members have their own ideas, and we will need to sit and discuss that, and decide how we move forward.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, the council will meet this morning to discuss the oil for food program.

I'm wondering, how concerned are you that this is becoming more of a political problem on a technical problem in how to deal with readapting the oil for food program? And what would you like, sir, to come out of the opening meeting, if anything today, that's scheduled for later today on Iraq.

ANNAN: I think on the oil for food program, I'm confident that the members will find a solution. I had lunch with the P5 members, and we discussed this issue, and I'm confident that they will find a way out. They are concerned about the Iraqi civilian population. They would want to do everything to help them, and they know that the effort is geared at that, and they want to put the needs of the people at the center of all that we do at this stage.

So I have no doubt that the council will come to a satisfactory conclusion on the oil for food. As for the meeting this afternoon, I expect the members states will express their views on the conflict, and go on record.

QUESTION: Sir, have there been violations of the Geneva Convention in terms of POWs? Do you have any concerns in this area?

ANNAN: I think it is important that all parties of the conflict respect the Geneva Convention, and POWs should be treated fairly, humanely. They should not be humiliated, nor should be made objects of public exhibition.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: There you have it, Secretary General Kofi Annan taking some questions from reporters in advance of his meeting tomorrow with the prime minister of Great Britain. He feels very strongly that the oil for food program should be started as soon as possible. It was put on hold as the war got underway. He actually made an interesting comment that caught my ear when he talked about how he was increasingly disturbed by the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and he pretty much said he had accepted the story that missiles indeed, had struck a marketplace in Baghdad, killing anywhere from 14 to 15 people now.



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