16/04/2003

UN will have important role in Iraq says Blair

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the UN's role in post-conflict Iraq should not simply be a humanitarian one but one that also involves "political and reconstruction issues", during a joint press conference with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Speaking ahead of the EU summit in Athens today, Mr Blair said that he and Mr Annan were agreed on the "importance of the role of the United Nations in post-conflict Iraq".

He added: "I think if we approach the thing in the right spirit of goodwill we will make sure that this situation is handled well, and handled well not just on behalf of the Iraqi people, but also in respect of the United Nations too, and that is what we will work towards."

Mr Annan said he was "confident" that the UN will play an "important role" in the political and material reconstruction of Iraq.

"The Prime Minister and I are confident that we will be able to work with all the other leaders and the Council members to find a way forward," he said.

Since Mr Blair met with US President George Bush last week, he had met with the Germans, Kofi Annan and the Foreign Secretary has met with his French counterpart. So far, the British government appears to be in agreement with the anti-war EU nations, the UN and the Whitehouse – entities which have been less than harmonious in their relationships in recent months.

Whether Mr Blair's shuttle diplomacy has fostered a spirit of unity and multilateralism between the key nations will be tested later today when the EU delivers its statement on post-conflict Iraq.

(GMcG)

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