Lessons of Iraq war underscore importance of UN Charter - Annan

16 September 2004 – Secretary-General Kofi Annan believes that the Iraq war in 2003 demonstrated the need for the international community to address the issue of preventive action in the context of Charter principles and showed the importance of joint efforts on matters of use of force, a United Nations spokesman said today.

Responding to media questions about the Secretary-General's comments in a BBC interview, spokesman Fred Eckhard told a press briefing in New York that in his remarks the Secretary-General had reiterated his well-known position that the military action against Iraq was not in conformity with the UN Charter.

In the interview, Mr. Annan was repeatedly asked whether the war was "illegal." "Yes," he finally said, "I have indicated it is not in conformity with the UN Charter, from our point of view, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal."

The Secretary-General said the war in Iraq and its aftermath had brought home painful lessons about the importance of resolving use-of-force issues jointly through the UN. "I think that in the end everybody is concluding that it is best to work together with allies and through the UN to deal with some of those issues.

"And I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time," the Secretary-General told the interviewer, noting that such action needed UN approval and a much broader support of the international community.

Mr. Eckhard stressed that this had been the Secretary-General's longstanding view. The spokesman added that one of the purposes of a High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which the Secretary-General had established, was to look at the issue of preventive war and to see how it could be employed in conformity with the Charter, which does not allow pre-emptive attacks.

"He has over the past more than a year used the words 'not in conformity with the Charter' to describe his view of the Iraq war and of course one of his purposes in establishing the UN panel on change was to look at the question of preventive war and try to bring that in conformity with the Charter principles, which do not promote preventive war," Mr. Eckhard said.

"Since the war he has been emphasizing the need for nations on the Security Council and the UN membership as a whole to pull together, saying it is in everyone's interest that stability be restored to Iraq," the spokesman said. "So once the invasion took place, he did not look back, he looked forward."

"But the principle of the Charter, called into question in his view by the invasion, needs to be addressed in a serious way," Mr. Eckhard added. "And he asked the high level panel to look specifically at that issue. That panel is supposed to report by the end of this year and the Secretary-General would formulate his recommendations and put them to the General Assembly."

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