The United States has reacted angrily to comments today by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, that the coalition in Iraq is an "occupying power" and must respect international law. Mr Annan told the UN Human Rights Commission: "I hope the coalition will set an example by making clear that they intend to act strictly within the rules governing the occupation of conquered nations. (UN)...
April 24, 2003
Annan says coalition is an 'occupying power'
By AP in GENEVA and Baghdad
The United States has reacted angrily to comments today by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, that the coalition in Iraq is an "occupying power" and must respect international law.
Mr Annan told the UN Human Rights Commission: "I hope the coalition will set an example by making clear that they intend to act strictly within the rules governing the occupation of conquered nations.
But Kevin Moley, the US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said: "We find it - at best - odd that the Secretary General chose to bring this to our attention."
The US has said that it has not yet established whether it is the occupying power under international law, but is nevertheless respecting the rules. Mr Moley said: "We're simply saying that the issue of an occupying power has not yet been dealt with.
"We'll come to that and we'll presumably come to that quickly. But there should be no question - and certainly no question in the mind of the Secretary General - that we need to make it any clearer than we already have ... about being in conformity and wanting to be in conformity in every way with international accords."
Mr Annan cited the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1907 Hague Convention, which set down the responsibilities of occupiers - ranging from maintaining public order to collecting taxes.
Last week, Brigadier-General Vincent Brooks, the deputy operations director at US Central Command, said that the United States did not consider itself an occupying power in Iraq, instead seeing the coalition as a "liberating force" - a classification that does not exist in the Geneva or Hague Conventions.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, Jay Garner, the man appointed by the US to initially run postwar Iraq, met technocrats and academics in the capital today to discuss his work.
"Our purpose here in your country is to create an environment for you so that we can begin a process of government that leads to a democratic form in Iraq," the retired US general told about 60 men invited to the meeting in a Baghdad conference centre.
One of the most immediate issues facing Mr Garner and his Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance – set up by the Pentagon before the war - is the claim by a recently returned Iraqi exile to be the new mayor of Baghdad.
Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi's claim is not recognised by Mr Garner's office, according to Tim Cross, the American's deputy from the British military.
Mr al-Zubaidi and his deputies nevertheless claim US recognition and have begun substantial efforts to solidify power, including promising a 1,000 per cent salary increase to all state employees.
Nathan Jones , Mr Garner's spokesman, said that a second general meeting would be held by Tuesday with Iraqi factions to discuss forming a provisional government.
Abdul-Khaliq al-Shabbut, a well-informed Baghdad lawyer, said that the meeting was scheduled for Monday and would involve at least 300 Iraqis.
The first meeting took place on April 15 in the ancient southern city of Ur, and ended with Iraqis, essentially hand-picked by the United States to attend, issuing a 13-point communiqué about the political future of Iraq.
Annan's Appeal Over Iraq Sparks U.S. Ire
Thu April 24, 2003 08:47 AM ET
GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. chief Kofi Annan urged U.S.-led forces in Iraq on Thursday to live up to their responsibility for civilians and public order under the Geneva Conventions, drawing an angry response from the United States.
Addressing the annual session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Annan said that with the war over, he hoped a "new era of human rights in Iraq will now begin."
It was up to U.S.-led troops to set an example by "demonstrating through their actions that they accept the responsibilities of the occupying power for public order and safety, and the well-being of the civilian population," he said.
Annan, who has made similar appeals in the past, said these responsibilities were clearly set out in the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations on the rules of warfare.
But Washington's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Kevin E. Moley, took issue with the remarks, saying the United States had gone out of its way from "from day one" to meet all its obligations.
"Quite frankly, we find it odd at best that the secretary-general would feel that he had to bring this to our attention," Moley told journalists.
Iraqi cities suffered widespread looting after U.S.-led forces toppled the government of former president Saddam Hussein two weeks ago.
Humanitarian organizations called for U.S. troops to restore order so that aid could reach needy civilians. The United States says the worst of the lawlessness is now over.
After his speech, Annan left for New York cutting short a European trip because of what his office called "current developments" in Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere.
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