Annan Urges US to End Iraq War as Soon as Possible

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday started a Security Council open debate with calls for the United States to end its war with Iraq as soon as possible.

"We all want to see this war brought to an end as soon as possible," Annan said in a speech to the urgent public meeting.

During the past week, he said, "We have all been watching hour by hour, on our television screens, the terrifying impact of modern weaponry on Iraq and its people."

"We not only mourn the dead. We must also feel anguish for the living, and especially for the children."

Annan was the first of 63 speakers to take the floor at the meeting, which was called at the request of the Non-Aligned Movement and the League of Arab States.

"All of us must regret that our intense efforts to achieve a peaceful solution, through this council, did not succeed," Annan said.

Many people ask why the Iraqi government did not take full advantage of the last chance they were given by the council, he noted.

"But, at the same time, many people around the world are seriously questioning whether it was legitimate for some member states to proceed to such a fateful action now ... without first reaching a collective decision of this council," he added.

While renewing his calls for the warring parties to protect civilians and to bring relief to the victims, Annan called on the Security Council to act fast on resuming the oil-for-food humanitarian program.

"I am aware that a concerted effort is being made (in the council) to reach agreement, and I hope that it will succeed," he said.

Hours before the start of the debate, the Security Council ended a three-hour closed-door meeting without agreement on a draft resolution on adjusting the oil-for-food program.

But envoys from some council members, including German UN Ambassador Gunter Pleuger, told reporters they were optimistic that the draft resolution could be adopted in the near future.



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