04/12/2006

Annan says Iraq situation worse

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has told the BBC that he believes Iraq is in the grip of a civil war and said that Iraqis are worse off now than under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

In an interview for BBC World Service radio and BBC World television to be broadcast today (Monday) he spoke about the delicate situation in Iraq.

In his last month as UN Secretary-General, Mr Annan spoke of his regrets over his inability to stop the Iraq war.

He described Iraq as being in an extremely dangerous situation and raised concerns about the Iraqis' ability to solve these problems by themselves.

"When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war - this is much worse," he said. "They are going to need help - given the killings and the bitterness, I'm not sure they can do it alone."

Mr Annan agreed with some Iraqis who claim that life is worse now than it was under Saddam, saying: "I think they are right in the sense of the average Iraqi's life.

"If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison, that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, 'Am I going to see my child again?'

"And the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under control."

He also called on the people of Iraq to do more to find a solution.

He said: "We all are interested in getting Iraq right and we would want to get it right, but the Iraqis will have to come together and make it happen."

The UN Secretary-General said that the attempts to stop the Iraq invasion in 2003 were an extremely difficult point in his term.

"I really believed that we could have stopped the war and that if we had worked a bit harder, given the inspectors a bit more time, we could have.

"I was also concerned that for the US and its coalition to go to war without the consent of the council in that particular region, which has always been extremely controversial, would be extremely difficult and very divisive and that it would take quite a long time to put the organisation back together, and of course it divided the world too."

With his tenure at the head of the UN coming to a close at the end of this month, Mr Annan said that he would make the genocide in Darfur a priority to the day that he leaves.

He also called for a diplomatic resolution rather than a military solution to the concerns over Iran's nuclear programme.

(SP/KMcA)

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