21 March 2003

"My Thoughts Today Are With the Iraqi People" Says Secretary-General, Pledging UN Assistance, Support As They Face "Yet Another Ordeal"

NEW YORK, 20 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Iraq:

Today, despite the best efforts of the international community and the United Nations, war has come to Iraq for the third time in a quarter of a century.

Perhaps if we had persevered a little longer, Iraq could yet have been disarmed peacefully, or -- if not -- the world could have taken action to solve this problem by a collective decision, endowing it with greater legitimacy, and, therefore, commanding wider support, than is the case now.

But let us not dwell on the divisions of the past. Let us confront the realities of the present, however harsh, and look for ways to forge stronger unity in the future.

My thoughts today are with the Iraqi people, who face yet another ordeal. I hope that all parties will scrupulously observe the requirements of international humanitarian law, and will do everything in their power to shield the civilian population from the grim consequences of war. The United Nations, for its part, will do whatever it can to bring them assistance and support.

Let us hope the future will be much brighter for the Iraqi people than the recent past, and that they will soon have the chance to rebuild their country in peace and freedom, under the rule of law.

Over the past weeks, the peoples of the world have shown what great importance they attach to the legitimacy conveyed by the authority of the United Nations. They have made clear that, in confronting uncertainty and danger, they want to see power harnessed to legitimacy. They want their leaders to come together, in the United Nations, to resolve the problems shared by all humanity.

I will do my utmost to ensure that the United Nations rises to this challenge.

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