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Annan Answers Critics on Iraq

January 20, 1999

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has launched a campaign to answer criticism of his role in the Iraq crisis, defending his record and stressing the limits of his office.

In an opinion piece in Tuesday’s New York Times and a speech Tuesday night to the Council on Foreign Relations, Annan rebutted allegations that he was appeasing Saddam Hussein and insisted his goal was to make Iraq obey U.N. Security Council resolutions.

``Whatever means I have employed in my efforts in dealing with Iraq, my ends have never been in question,″ Annan told the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent think tank. ``By precedent, by principle, by charter and by duty, I am bound to seek those ends through peaceful diplomacy.″

In the past two weeks, newspaper editorials and magazine articles have attacked Annan personally and professionally, charging that he appeased Saddam and undermined U.N. weapons inspections.

The criticism began soon after Annan negotiated a February accord with Baghdad on access for inspectors. It escalated with his efforts in October to persuade Iraq to resume cooperation with inspectors and culminated with reports in The Washington Post and The Boston Globe this month that the United States was spying on Iraq via the U.N. weapons inspection system.

``The Indecent Decent Man,″ is the title of The New Republic’s Feb. 1 profile of the U.N. chief, in which both his intellectual and moral judgment are severely attacked.

In a Jan. 8 column, The New York Times called Annan ``Saddam’s greatest single asset at the U.N.″ Columnist A.M. Rosenthal charged that Annan worked with Iraq’s sympathizers to ``whittle U.N. arms inspections down to a useless splinter and lift U.N. economic sanctions on Iraq.″

One of Annan’s top advisers, John Ruggie, countered the charges in an opinion piece in The Washington Post on Sunday, saying the allegations were without merit and triggered by frustration that Iraq hasn’t obeyed U.N. resolutions.

The criticism comes in sharp contrast to Annan’s relatively trouble-free first two years in office, when it seemed the career U.N. bureaucrat could do almost no wrong.

Annan spokesman Fred Eckhard acknowledged Tuesday that the honeymoon may be over.

``When you are acting as he is at a certain level of prominence in world affairs, you expect to take your knocks,″ Eckhard said.

In his speech Tuesday night, Annan told his critics that a U.N. secretary-general cannot be judged by the same standards as a head of state because he is bound by the demands and interests of 185 heads of state _ the U.N. membership.

``With no enforcement capacity and no executive power beyond the organization, a secretary-general is armed only with tools of his own making,″ Annan said. ``He is invested only with the power that a united Security Council may wish to bestow, and the moral authority entrusted to him by the Charter.″

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