U.N. bracing, planning for Iraq conflict

By WILLIAM M. REILLY, UPI United Nations Correspondent   |   March 5, 2003 at 3:15 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, March 5 (UPI) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday the United Nations was making humanitarian contingency plans for an Iraq war but only doing "preliminary thinking" about managing or administering the nation afterwards.

"We have been doing lots of good work and contingency planning for the humanitarian aspects and obviously some preliminary thinking on what would happen if there were to be war and the other aspects of post-conflict Iraq," he told reporters.

"There is no U.N. plan for administering post-conflict Iraq. We have no mandate to make these plans."

However, he added, "There is some preliminary thinking but there is no plan and no document."

Annan was reacting to a report in The Times of London that it had a 60-page document describing U.N. plans.

However, a spokesman for the secretary-general, Fred Eckhard, said there was a lengthy report to Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette from Rafeeudin Ahmed, a former U.N. Development Program official, who was tasked to look at what the world organization could do in post-conflict Iraq if asked by the Security Council.

Eckhard suggested that was the document the newspaper cited.

"I think it is unfortunate that the document has been given such importance," the secretary-general said. "We have been doing lots of good work and contingency planning for the humanitarian aspects and obviously some preliminary thinking on what would happen if there were to be war and the other aspects of post-conflict Iraq."

"The Security Council has not given us any mandate to carry out any activity in Iraq, apart from what you are already well aware of," Eckhard said, referring to the oil for food program, the border monitoring of the U.N. Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission, the inspection process by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and the compensation commission activity in Geneva, "all Security Council mandated activities."

"Should there be a war and we still hope that the Security Council can avert war, should there be a war we have to ask ourselves what happens to these activities and we've looked at it in two steps," he said, adding, the first immediate concern was internal coordination of the humanitarian program.

Since last December, Eckhard said, he has been chairing an internal task force to do contingency planning. The panel, composed of a number of key U.N. agencies that would be involved in humanitarian work, was asked to look at "what might be asked of us ... after the immediate humanitarian needs had been dealt with drawing on our experience with past post-conflict situations."

The spokesman said "someone" thought Ahmed's report should be shared with the media.

"While we have no mandate from the council, we have a moral obligation to do contingency planning," said Eckhard. "We still hope that there can be a peaceful solution."

Eckhard explained it was the world organization's policy not to "go public" with contingency planning, whether it was humanitarian or political.

The Times cited U.N. sources as saying they expected the plan to be implemented even if Washington attacks Iraq without U.N. backing.

The Times said the confidential plan foresees the United Nations stepping in some three months after the military action has ended. The world body would then build democratic institutions in the Arab nation.

It said the existence of the plan suggests top U.N. officials, who are negotiating with Saddam Hussein's government to rid Iraq of proscribed weapons of mass destruction, consider war to be inevitable.

"The U.N. is breaking a taboo, and arguably breaching its charter, by considering plans for Iraq's future governance while it deals daily with President Saddam Hussein's regime as a legitimate member," The Times said.

The plan calls for the setting up of a U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq that would aid in the establishment of a new government after Saddam is deposed. According to The Times, it says the United Nations should avoid taking direct control of Iraq's oil or in vetting Iraqi officials for links to Saddam or staging elections during a U.S. military occupation.

The plan calls for the appointment of a senior official to co-ordinate the United Nation's strategy and expects the official to become its special representative in post-war Iraq. The paper said Lakhdar Brahimi, the former Algerian foreign minister who played a key role in the setting up of the post-Taliban government in Afghanistan, would be approached for the job. He was expected to accept the position, it said.

The plan also spoke out against the setting up of a U.N.-backed transitional administration, instead advocating a political process that would lead to the setting up of an interim government.

"The group found that, although a U.N.-led transitional administration may seem more palatable than an administration by the occupying power, there are key drawbacks to a transitional administration: the U.N. does not have the capacity to take on the responsibility of administering Iraq," The Times quoted the plan as saying.

It said the people of Iraq should determine their own future rather than the international community.

"The preferred option for the U.N. is a U.N. assistance mission that would provide political facilitation, consensus building, national reconciliation and the promotion of democratic governance and the rule of law," the plan said. "Full Iraqi ownership is the desired end-state whereby a heavy U.N. involvement is unnecessary. The people of Iraq, rather than the international community should determine national government structures, a legal framework and governance arrangements."

The Times said the U.N. deputy secretary-general met Monday with Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the retired U.S. Army general who is in line to be the U.S. governor of postwar Iraq. According to The Times, he told her he wanted to get out of the job "as quickly as possible" to be replaced by a respected international figure.

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