Safeguarding ideals

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressed the crowd as he made his farewell address Monday at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo. (Associated Press)

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his farewell address, urged the United States not to abandon its democratic ideals while waging war against terrorism.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan waved to spectators as he toured the U.N. Peace Plaza before speaking at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library on Monday in Independence, Mo. (Paul Beaver ~ The Examiner)

In remarks Monday at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library, Annan also said the Security Council should be expanded.

"Human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity," Annan told a packed crowd that included international media.

When the United States "appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused," he said.

Annan, who leaves the United Nations Dec. 31 after 10 years as secretary-general, has become an increasingly vocal critic of the war in Iraq.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Jim Everett, left, an Independence member of the United Nations Association of U.S.A./Greater Kansas City Chapter, place a wreath at the U.N. Peace Plaza Monday, Dec. 11, 2006, in Independence, Mo. Annan later spoke at the Truman Presidential Museum & Library. (AP Photo/The Examiner, Paul Beaver)

But Annan disputed media reports, based on a released text of his remarks, that he was criticizing the United States, saying "nothing could be further from the truth."

"What I am saying here is that when the U.S. works with other countries in a multilateral system we do extremely well," he said. "Our world is in a sorry state, we have lots of problems around the world, we require that natural leadership role that the U.S. has played in the past and can play today.

"To appeal for cooperation and leadership should never be seen as an attack."

In Washington, the State Department was reserved in its reaction to Annan's remarks.

"He is entitled to his opinion," spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"There's no secretary general of the United Nations that's going to be in lockstep with the United States or any other country with regard to its policies," McCormack said. "It's not that person's job."

In response to a question from Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., about the recently released Iraq Study Group report, Annan said the report was useful and clarified many issues. But he said the world first needs to find a way to get the Iraqis to reconcile with one another.

"We need to be as active on the political front as we are on the military front," he said. "We need to find a way to get the Iraqis to come together and settle their differences and renew their constitution."

Annan said it was also important to get nearby countries, including Iran and Syria, involved in finding a solution to regional problems.

He said that the U.S. has a special responsibility to the world because it continues to have extraordinary power.

Annan summed up five principles that he considers essential: collective responsibility, global solidarity, rule of law, mutual accountability and multilateralism.

He chose the Truman museum for his final major speech in part because it is dedicated to a president who was instrumental in the founding of the United Nations. The museum was under tight security, including sharpshooters on the roof and a strong police presence. Only a handful of protesters appeared outside the museum. Annan's speech repeatedly praised the Truman administration but never mentioned President Bush by name.

"As President Truman said, 'The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world,"' Annan said.

"He believed strongly that henceforth security must be collective and indivisible. That was why, for instance, that he insisted when faced with aggression by North Korea against the South in 1950, on bringing the issue to the United Nations," Annan said.

"Against such threats as these, no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others."

Annan also called for a reform of the Security Council, saying its membership "still reflects the reality of 1945." He suggested adding new members to represent parts of the world with less of a voice.

He said the permanent members, the world powers, "must accept the special responsibility that comes with their privilege.'

"The Security Council is not just another stage on which to act out national interests," he said in another jab at Bush.

Annan has had a strained relationship with the administration and with outgoing U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.

Annan was criticized by some in the administration and in Iraq after saying earlier this month that the level of violence in Iraq is much worse than that of Lebanon's civil war and that some Iraqis believe their lives were better under Saddam Hussein.

He also has urged the international community to help rebuild Iraq, saying he was not sure Iraq could accomplish it alone.

Bolton also is leaving this month. He resigned in the wake of the November elections, which gave Democrats control over the next Congress, making his Senate confirmation unlikely.

After a private dinner Tuesday night at the White House for Annan, Bolton joked that "nobody sang 'Kumbaya."'

Told at the time of Bolton's comment, Annan laughed and asked: "But does he know how to sing it?"

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