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UN Blames Bush For Attack On UN Iraq Compound

by Thalif Deen

Bush to UN: Iraq belongs to us
(IPS) UNITED NATIONS -- Less than 48 hours after a deadly bomb attack on the UN compound in Baghdad, Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized the United States-led coalition for failing to provide security for the United Nations and its workers in highly volatile Iraq.

"We had hoped that by now the coalition forces would have secured the environment for us to be able to carry on the essential work of political and economic reconstruction, institution building, and for Iraqis to carry on their work," he told reporters August 20.

But "this has not happened," Annan complained, hours after he returned to New York, cutting short his summer vacation in Europe.

The secretary-general said that although coalition forces were making all efforts to make the country secure, "I don't know when this will happen."

The massive suicide bomb attack killed at least 20, including Under-Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN special representative in Baghdad, and also injured more than 100.

Since President George W. Bush declared the war on Iraq over May 1, the security situation has deteriorated, with U.S. soldiers killed virtually daily and attacks on oil pipelines, water and electricity plants.

Annan said the bombing was not anticipated, "given the fact that we have been in Iraq for over 12 years, and nothing like this had happened."

But Denis Halliday, a former UN assistant secretary-general who was in charge of the UN's oil-for-food program in Iraq, thinks the world body has a blemished reputation in Iraq.

Although there is no justification for killing Iraqi and international UN staff, Halliday told IPS, "we must remember that many people in the region and in Iraq are rightly very angry with the United Nations for collaborating with the illegal U.S./U.K. invasion."

"They have not forgotten that the United Nations has killed more Iraqis under 13 years of UN sanctions than Bush, Clinton and Bush ever did," he said.

The first George Bush was U.S. president during the 1991 Gulf War. President Bill Clinton, who succeeded him, was followed by today's president, George W. Bush.

"And there are other reasons why the UN organization is hated, but nothing justifies murder at the Canal Hotel {the UN headquarters in Baghdad]," Halliday added.

At Wednesday's press conference, Annan questioned a widely circulated story that the United Nations had turned down a U.S. offer to provide tighter security for the compound in Baghdad.

"I don't know if the United Nations did turn down an offer of protection, but if it did it was not correct, and they should not have been allowed to turn it down."

Annan said those who are responsible for security and law and order should determine what action is taken.

"We all live in this city [New York]," he said. "Nobody tells us if you want the police to patrol your neighborhood. They make the assessment that patrol and protection is needed, and it's done. And that's what should be done in Iraq."

Published reports claim that UN officials in Baghdad might have rebuffed U.S. offers of security in order to distance the world body from the United States and its occupation. But if they did, the UN secretariat in New York was kept in the dark.

Although Annan did not say he would seek increased U.S. security for the United Nations, he said he was "going to reassess certain things."

"It will be necessary to strengthen and reassess our security arrangements and that process has already begun," he added.

But he ruled out any possibilities of a multi-national, blue-helmeted UN peacekeeping force being rushed into Iraq.

"I don't see a United Nations peacekeeping force going into Iraq at this stage," Annan said, "This is not a job for blue helmets," he declared.

At least three countries -- France, India and Pakistan -- have said they would provide troops for a peacekeeping force in Iraq if it was created by the United Nations.

But U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ruled out such a force, saying it would dilute U.S. military authority in Iraq. Instead, Washington is trying to cajole other nations to join the military coalition now patrolling in Iraq.

Annan told reporters the issue is still "under discussion."

Asked if the United States will give the United Nations more political authority and power -- beyond the humanitarian tasks mandated by the Security Council -- Annan said: "Well, I don't know if it's a question of the United States giving us more power."

"Our power comes from the Security Council; our authority comes from the Security Council. Obviously, we are sharing time and space and the territory with the occupying power, the United States, and the allied troops."

"But we will carry out that mandate that has been given to us by the Security Council," he added.

Last week the Council, the UN's senior decision-making body, "welcomed" by a vote of 14-1 the Iraqi Governing Council, a political body established by the U.S.-led authority. It also created a new UN Mission for Iraq, two moves that some observers have suggested could have provoked Tuesday's attack.

While Annan insisted the United Nations will not pull out from Iraq -- despite strong reservations by the UN Staff Council's standing committee on security and independence -- two sister institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have both withdrawn their staff from Iraq and temporarily re-located them in neighboring Jordan.

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Albion Monitor August 20, 2003 (

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