Thursday, September 16, 2004

Iraq war illegal, says Annan

United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan says the United States decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 was "illegal".

Australia was a key supporter of the war on Iraq and sent troops to joined the United States-led invasion last year.

Mr Annan's comments are likely to reignite debate over whether US President George W Bush, Prime Minister John Howard and British Prime Minister Tony Blair acted within the bounds of international law by failing to get a final UN Security Council resolution on Iraq.

Speaking in an interview with BBC World Service radio, Mr Annan says the UN Security Council should have issued a second resolution, if a US-led invasion of Iraq was to be allowed.

"I'm one of those who believe that there should have been a second resolution," he said.
"Yes, if you wish. I've indicated that it was not in conformity with the UN Charter from our point of view, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal."

The UN Charter is one of the cornerstones of international law.

Mr Annan says that given the current level of violence and unrest, it is unlikely that Iraq would be able to hold credible elections as planned in January 2005.

"I think there have been lessons for the US and lessons for the UN and other member states," he said.

"I think that, in the end, everybody's concluded that it is best to work together with our allies and through the UN to deal with some of these issues.

"I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time...without UN approval and much broader support from the international community."

The council had adopted a number of resolutions over the years to compel Saddam Hussein to abandon the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

The final resolution was adopted in November 2002, when UN inspectors re-entered Iraq, warning the Iraqi regime of "serious consequences" if it was found to be in material breach of the earlier resolutions.

Mr Annan says the decision on whether to act on Iraq should have been made by the UN.
"It was up to the Security Council to approve or determine what those consequences should be," he said.

Mr Annan told a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands, shortly before the invasion that if the United States took military action without Security Council approval "it would not be in conformity with the Charter".

The United States and Britain withdrew a draft resolution in the council in mid-March after it was clear there were not enough votes.

France had threatened to veto the draft if UN inspectors were not given more time to account for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Source: ABC News Online

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