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Annan hails Japan's role in Iraq

Annan briefed Koizumi on Iraq during their meeting in Tokyo.
Annan briefed Koizumi on Iraq during their meeting in Tokyo.

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TOKYO, Japan -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on Japan to continue helping Iraq to meet the "formidable challenges" ahead for the war-ravaged country.

Annan, addressing the Japanese parliament Tuesday, said Japan was among the countries leading the way in meeting the challenge.

With a $500 million aid commitment, Japan is the largest contributor to Iraq's reconstruction after the United States.

It also recently sent troops to aid in humanitarian work there -- its first overseas military deployment since World War II and a decision that provoked domestic and external criticism.

By April it will have more than 1,000 troops in the southern Iraq city of Samawah.

Annan also acknowledged Japanese dissatisfaction with delays in reforming the United Nations itself, but said he hoped this frustration would not prevail over Japan's commitment to multilateralism.

Japan, backed by the United States, has been pushing for a permanent seat on the 15-member Security Council. There are currently five permanent members: the U.S., Russia, China, France and the UK.

Along with being under-represented, Japan also believes it pays a disproportionate part of the U.N.'s running costs.

''I share your disappointment that talks on reforming the Security Council have gone on for so long with so little progress,'' Annan said.

He hailed Japan's contribution to the international community, calling it a "paragon of international engagement."

Annan, who is on a five-day visit to Japan, repeated the message contained in his report released Monday to the Security Council in New York: that there can be no elections in Iraq this year.

The report said Iraq needs at least eight months to be ready to held elections, once a legal framework for them is established.

Annan told Japanese parliamentarians that a fact-finding team he had sent to Iraq earlier this month under Lakhdar Brahimi found a consensus among Iraqis that elections were necessary, and that the June 30 deadline for transfer of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition authority should be maintained.

"Unfortunately, credible elections cannot take place by June 30, 2004. Therefore it is necessary for Iraqis to agree on an interim mechanism to which sovereignty can be transferred," Annan said.

He also warned that a more secure environment in Iraq was "absolutely essential" if the U.N. was to play its full role in helping political, social and economic reconstruction there.

Annan withdrew all non-Iraqi U.N. workers from the country in August last year after a deadly truck bomb at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad killed 23 people, including his special representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Annan arrived in Japan on Saturday to meet Japanese leaders. On Monday he briefed Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the U.N. report covering Iraq.


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