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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 19:16 GMT 20:16 UK
US anger at Annan remarks
Kofi Annan
Annan said he hoped end of conflict would herald a new era of human rights
The United States has reacted angrily to comments made by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in which he reminded US forces in Iraq of their duties as an "occupying power" in the country.

Making his annual address to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva Mr Annan said he hoped coalition troops would adhere to the Geneva Conventions and accept their responsibility for the safety of the Iraqi people.

Only minutes after the secretary-general had finished speaking, Kevin Moley, the US ambassador to the UN in Geneva, made his irritation clear.

He said that the US had repeatedly spelled out to Mr Annan and the world that its troops were "in conformance and wanting to be in conformance in every way with the Geneva Conventions".

"Quite frankly, we find it odd at best that the secretary-general would feel that he had to bring this to our attention," Mr Moley said.

Neglect accusations

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says Washington is angered by the use of the term "occupying power", which it says may not be correct under international law.

US troops in Iraq
The US does not like being called an occupying power

And it is extremely sensitive to charges that it neglected its responsibilities in Iraq by failing to prevent the looting of Baghdad's hospitals and museums after its forces had taken control.

Mr Annan, acknowledging the scenes of jubilation witnessed in many Iraqi cities following the fall of Saddam Hussein, said he hoped the end of the conflict would usher in a "new era of human rights in Iraq".

But he also said that going to war without specific authorisation from the UN Security Council had created deep divisions.

Although Mr Annan has made similar appeals before our correspondent says this time was obviously once too often for the US.

Mr Annan left Geneva for UN headquarters in New York immediately after his speech, cutting short his visit to Europe.

A UN spokeswoman cited concern over recent developments in Iraq and in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the secretary general's unexpected departure.

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