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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 20:39 GMT
UN chief demands clear Iraq role
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan said Iraq was still too dangerous for a UN presence
The United Nations role in Iraq needs to be defined much more clearly, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says.

Mr Annan said the capture of Saddam Hussein was an opportunity for a new beginning for Iraqis - and forming a provisional government was a priority.

Mr Annan was addressing the UN Security Council during a debate on the future of Iraq.

The CIA will handle the interrogation of Saddam Hussein, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters.

Mr Annan said the UN had not disengaged from Iraq and was doing all it could from outside the country.

But he said it was still too dangerous for the UN to return to Iraq, following the bombing of its Baghdad headquarters in August that killed UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others.

Mr Annan said the UN was ready to play its full part in helping Iraq, but "much greater clarity" was needed as to what was expected from it.

In other developments:

  • US troops arrest 73 suspected Iraqi insurgents in a raid in the northern town of Samarra, the US military says - the captives are said to include a mid-level leader of the Fedayeen, Saddam Hussein's former militia;

  • Three US soldiers are wounded when their military vehicle is hit by a roadside bomb in Tikrit;

  • The US army says it killed at least 11 militants who ambushed a convoy in Samarra on Monday.


Mr Annan described the capture of Saddam Hussein as "an opportunity for a new beginning in the vital task of helping Iraqis to take control of their destiny".

Entrance to Saddam Hussein's hideout
Campaign against the Kurds in the 1980s, including the use of poison gas at Halabja
Suppression of Kurdish and Shia revolts after the first Gulf War
Brutality against the Marsh Arabs
Crimes committed during the wars against Iran and Kuwait
Possible involvement in recent attacks on coalition forces and other targets in Iraq

Mr Annan said the process of restoring sovereignty to Iraqis in the form of a provisional government was urgent and needed to include every segment of Iraqi society.

He added: "While there may not be time to organise free, fair and credible elections for this purpose, it is essential that the process leading to the formation of a provisional government is fully inclusive and transparent".

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the session that Saddam Hussein had to be made to answer to the Iraqi people, so that they could begin what he called the long-overdue process of reconciliation.

Mr Zebari said he wanted to see an expanded role for the UN in Iraq that could not be delivered from outside the country.

"The United Nations must not fail the Iraqi people again," he warned.

Last week Mr Annan said UN staff would be making Baghdad visits from Cyprus or a smaller office in Amman, Jordan.

He named New Zealander Ross Mountain as his new interim envoy to Iraq.

The BBC's John Simpson
"No one was hurt but the looters had a field day"

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