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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 00:20 GMT
UN chief warns against Iraq attack
Iraqi guard outside UN headquarters in Baghdad
The US has hinted that Iraq could be a target
The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has warned the United States not to take action against Iraq as part of its declared war on terrorism.

"Any attempt or any decision to attack Iraq today will be unwise in that it can lead to a major escalation in the region and I would hope that will not be the case," he said.

The secretary general also said that the UN Security Council would need to consider any such action.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan (centre) arriving at hotel in Oslo
Annan is in Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize
He added that the only way to defeat terrorism was through long-term international co-operation.

Mr Annan was speaking in the Norwegian capital Oslo, where he will be presented on Monday with the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts by the UN to work for a more peaceful world.

Washington has expressed concern that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is seeking new weapons of mass destruction.

US Vice President Dick Cheney said on Sunday that Washington had still to decide "as to how we proceed to make certain the United States is not vulnerable to that kind of attack".

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had previously sought to calm speculation about widening US military action, saying there were no immediate plans to attack Iraq as part of the campaign against terrorism.

Afghanistan warning

Mr Annan said it felt "almost indecent" to receive the Nobel Peace Prize amid so many international conflicts.

He added that the current situation in Afghanistan remained very difficult, although details of a new multinational stabilisation force would shortly become clearer.

The country would "require the involvement of the international community for a long time to come", he said.

"I only hope that our attention will not wander."

The BBC's Nick Bryant in Washington
"We could see America ignoring what Kofi Annan says altogether"
The BBC's Rachel Harvey
"Mr Annan said the whole world was confronted with a struggle against terrorism"
See also:

08 Dec 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Tough questions over allies' next move
12 Oct 01 | Europe
UN wins Nobel Peace Prize
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