U.N. chief - Security Council should have say on Iraq
UNITED NATIONS -- As the Bush administration tries to build its case for a possible attack on Iraq, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday that the Security Council must be allowed to have its say on the issue.
Russia and China -- both permanent members of the council with close ties to Iraq -- oppose any military action. Russia said last week it would use its veto on the council against any use of force.
Annan's comments came as French President Jacques Chirac proposed that the Security Council set a three-week deadline for Baghdad to allow unfettered U.N. weapons inspections. If Iraq failed to do so, a resolution on whether to use military force would be considered.
Annan would not comment directly on the French president's proposal.
"I think it is important to stress that the council, which has been seized with this Iraqi issue for so long, should have something to say," he said. "I think it is appropriate that the council pronounces itself on the issue."
The secretary-general returned just ahead of a new session of the General Assembly where possible U.S. military action against Iraq is expected to be a dominating issue -- along with the global fight against terrorism.
Bush will present case
President Bush is expected to present the U.S. case for action against Saddam Hussein to the world's nations at the start of the General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting Thursday.
Bush has been speaking to world leaders by telephone in recent days while his officials have intensified public appearances saying they have evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq says Washington -- and its top ally, Britain -- are lying about having evidence in order to garner world support for an attack.
Annan said he had spoken to Bush and was waiting to hear what he said, but he has repeatedly stated his opposition to a war on Iraq.
In Paris last week, he told reporters it would be "unwise to attack Iraq" because "it will raise international tensions."
Britain has been the strongest backer of the United States, promising to help it win allies on the Iraq issue, while Germany and Russia have been the strongest opponents in Europe.
Other European nations have expressed skepticism, but a number of governments on Monday suggested they could support some sort of action against Iraq -- but only on certain conditions, particularly on the condition it comes through the United Nations.
Asked how persuasive he found the evidence compiled by the United States and its closest ally Britain, Annan said, "I haven't seen the evidence yet."