26 March 2003

Secretary-General, Condoleezza Rice Discuss Humanitarian Situation in Iraq

NEW YORK, 25 March (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General met today with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs. The Secretary-General welcomed Dr. Rice's taking the time to come to the United Nations to discuss the situation in Iraq. The United Nations and United States delegations discussed the humanitarian situation and the requirements for the provision of assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people so gravely affected by the war.

The Secretary-General repeated his public call on all parties involved in the war to meet their obligations towards civilians under international humanitarian law. He stressed that the United Nations was prepared to do all it could to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people. However, the United Nations would have limited capacity to do so until security conditions allowed for the safe return of staff to affected areas. Until then, humanitarian assistance would have to be provided by the United States and its coalition partners in those areas under their control, consistent with their overall responsibility under international law.

Dr. Rice described the United States' present thinking as regards the post-war period. The Secretary-General said that any United Nations role beyond the provision of humanitarian assistance would have to be decided by the Member States through a Security Council resolution. He emphasized the need to maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq and the right of its people to determine their political future and exercise control over their natural resources.

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