UNITED NATIONS, July 30 — Secretary General Kofi Annan called publicly today for a rethinking of the international institutions that were largely sidelined during the Iraq war.
"Many of us sense that we are living through a crisis of the international system," he said. The war and more recent crises in Africa, he added, "force us to ask ourselves whether the institutions and methods we are accustomed to are really adequate to deal with all the stresses of the last couple of years."
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan speaks at a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York, July 30, 2003. "Many of us sense that we are living through a crisis of the international system," he said. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Suggesting that some world leaders at the coming General Assembly should set aside time for basic discussions on these issues, he said, "if we are going to make preventive action, or war, part of our response to these new threats, what are the rules?"
"Who decides?" he added. "Under what circumstances? Did what happened in Iraq constitute an exception? A precedent others can exploit? What are the rules?"
In effect, three months after President Bush warned that the United Nations might become irrelevant, the secretary general turned a traditional midsummer news conference into a stump speech on the value of international institutions in general and the United Nations in particular.
At one point, recalling the bitter dismissals of the United Nations last winter, he said, with a bare hint of satisfaction, "I did warn those who were bashing the U.N. that they had to be careful because they may need the U.N. soon."
The remarks were made in a wide-ranging news conference during which Mr. Annan also indicated support for a new Security Council resolution on Iraq creating a broader international framework for restoring security and rebuilding political institutions. "If it does take a second resolution to get everybody to pull together to get it done, let's do it," he said.
He added: "If there were a United-Nations mandated force and there was an international effort to pacify Iraq, they would all feel more comfortable contributing to it. That also applies to reconstruction." There has been no indication from the United States-led occupation in Iraq that it is considering ceding political or military control.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company