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Annan calls for meet on Iraq

By Sridhar Krishnaswami

WASHINGTON APRIL 7. The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has called for a Security Council meeting this morning to discuss issues pertaining to Iraq. The meeting comes after the head of the U.N. body has had five different meetings with groups of member states, including those from the Arab world, last week discussing for the most part the humanitarian relief work.

The Arab States, for instance, have expressed a "lots of unhappiness"— in the words of Mr. Annan — on how the world body has gone about; and have said in no uncertain words that they wished to see greater U.N. efforts in the post conflict phase of Iraq.

Will it be smooth-sailing?

But agreement on post-conflict Iraq is not going to be easy and if first indications are anything to go by, the same divisions in the Council are emerging as was witnessed in the run up to the March 20 war in Iraq. Russia, France and Germany want the U.N. to be the central agency in post-war Iraq.

This is fine to the Bush administration, but only up to a certain point. Washington is willing to allow the U.N. to play the lead role in humanitarian relief and to a large extent in reconstruction, but want the world body nowhere near the political evolution in Baghdad.

The argument in some quarters here, including official, is that after the coalition has taken the lead in many areas especially with "blood and resources," it is simply baffling not to expect the United States or Britain wanting to play the lead political role in the unfolding scheme of things.

Analysts argue that if there is one major reason why Russia and France — and China — are insistent on a major role for the world body, it is on account of economic factors. Moscow, France and Beijing have literally billions going by way of oil interests and much of this has been pegged down to contracts with the Saddam Hussein regime.

In fact, some make the point that the insistence of Russia and France in the pre-conflict days was precisely in a vested interest to see the old scheme of things to continue. That said, contracts cannot be flushed down the drain on whims and fancies of incoming governments unless a prevailing national interest clause can be shown; and/or if proved that either Saddam Hussein was taken for a ride or he personally profiteered in the multi-billion dollar transactions. And it does no good for the incoming interim government in Baghdad to get on the wrong side of the international community just to score a few political points.

At least on the outward, the impression in the Security Council is that major powers — the veto holding members especially — will not want the Council to be involved in any fashion that would legitimise the current goings on.

Oil-for - Food on top

One of the first things that the Council has to address, and which is one reason why Mr. Annan has called a meeting, is the Oil-for-Food programme. On March 28, the Council unanimously rallied behind Mr. Annan, giving him authority for 45 over contracts

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