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Annan Speaks Before U.N. General Assembly

Aired September 12, 2002 - 10:01   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: First up will be Kofi Annan. His speech is expected to proceed the president's by about 10 or 15 minutes, and in a highly unusual move, the U.N. actually leaked a text of his speech, and we are told the administration is happy with some of it, not so happy about other parts of it.
Let's check in with Senior White House Correspondent John King, who has been following the president -- give us a little preview on how the president is inclined to act -- react to Kofi Annan's speech, and what the president might have to say.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, a defining moment for the president, make no mistake about that, even as he prosecutes one front on the war on the terrorism, the president to make the case today that the world should consider opening a second front if Saddam Hussein does not agree to comply with his previous commitments to the United Nations to get rid of his nuclear program, his chemical weapons program, his biological weapons program. We are told the president will strike a diplomatic tone here, and pledge that he is willing to work with the United Nations, in fact eager to work with the United Nations, but he will also say that the very credibility of that body, and you are looking at the General Assembly there, is at stake here. Mr. Bush will say Saddam has repeatedly, on a daily basis, broken his promises to the United Nations and the United Nations now must reassert its credibility in the world by forcing Saddam Hussein to disarm, and by allowing the world to go in and verify that he has disarmed.

In the speech, the president, we are told, will not set a deadline, but we are told by senior administration officials the administration is working behind the scenes to seek a new resolution from the United Nations Security Council that would put inspectors back into Iraq within a period of weeks, and they want language in that resolution that makes clear to Saddam Hussein any interference at all -- we are told the administration wants inspections that are any time, anywhere, any place, and language from the Security Council that makes clear the consequences of any interference or else, meaning military action.

ZAHN: Based, John, on what you have heard about this speech, how likely is it to appease any of those folks out there who say they will not join the United States in any military effort, if it is required?

KING: Well, the biggest criticism of the United States has been those who are saying that President Bush was going to launch military strikes without going before the United Nations, and seeking its blessing, or without urging the United Nations to act first. Mr. Bush will make the case today that that is precisely what he is doing, that he is going to the United Nations, urging the United Nations to act. He will also make clear, though, that if the United Nations does not act, he is prepared to act, so the administration believes its critics today would have to come at this very differently, that you will not be able to accuse this administration of not working in the world's leading international policy body, of not asking for help, so the administration believes at the end of the day, if critics oppose the president confronting Saddam Hussein, they will need a much different tack, and watch the president -- much like Prime Minister Blair, he will use the term "outlaw regime." The president is trying to shift the burden, saying, don't ask me why we are confronting Iraq, ask Saddam Hussein why he has not kept his word.

ZAHN: All right. John King, thanks so much.

Let's bring Jeff Greenfield into the discussion here, about the tone of what we can expect from this speech.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN ANALYST: Clearly, when any president talks to the United Nations, and it has been true from Harry Truman on, you talk to an international community. What you want to stress are the peaceful elements of whatever you have got in your quiver, so that means the idea of weapons inspectors, not a declaration of war.

But he is talking not just to the world, and to a skeptical audience, and Kofi Annan, I think, will present the skepticism about any unilateralism, he is also talking to the American public, who are not entirely signed on, and he is also talking to his own base, a conservative wing within the Republican establishment that is very much not just for military action in Iraq, but for an assertive policy against Syria, against Iran. There are people inside and outside the administration who have been pushing the president to say, take it all, grasp it whole. Go after -- help Iran overthrow its government, do something about Syria, push the Saudis -- we can have a regional- wide, Middle East stability, and Iraq is only the starting point -- so, many different audiences here.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: But there are also people within his party, who are not -- Chuck Hagel, Senator Hagel, comes to mind, who has been very sharp in his words that this is not the right time, and not the right place. Bob Graham -- Senator Graham of the Intelligence Committee said if we are going picking a fight out there, maybe Iran is a more logical one, given their support of international terrorism.

GREENFIELD: And you have Larry Craig from the rock grip (ph) Republican state of Idaho, as conservative a member of the Senate as you can find, saying, I don't think this case has been made, and I am very skeptical. So you are quite right. You just put that in the mix. As a fourth part of the audience that the president has to talk to, all at the same time.

BROWN: And Wolf Blitzer in Washington -- I'm curious as to the state of play, how much movement is there, has there been in the halls of Congress on this issue? Is it -- it is not a blank slate, certainly, the president has considerable support -- is it in motion? WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It is in motion. I suspect that after this speech this morning, a lot of those conservative Republicans are going to come on board and endorse what the president has in mind. We will probably see that shortly after the president winds up his speech. I am told that there is a news conference scheduled -- a joint news conference between the Senate Republican leader, the minority leader Trent Lott, and Senator John McCain. Another Republican, but a Republican who has often been critical of the president. Both of them will strongly endorse what the president has to say. That will be an important signal to all other Republicans to come on board, and make sure that they support the president. I suspect the Republicans will -- and many Democrats probably will as well, given the fact that we are before these November elections. They don't want to be seen as undermining the president in the course of a major national security issue.

BROWN: The -- we talked to the Senator McCain a week or so ago. One of the things that he said then is while he shared this view that something needs to be done, he also believed that the White House had not even come close yet to making the case, either domestically or abroad.

BLITZER: Yes, but I think that after the president's speech today, his tone will be significantly different, his tone will be much more supportive.

BROWN: Wolf, let me interrupt you. The secretary general is about to speak, and we will now listen in.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: ... and gentlemen.

We cannot begin today without reflecting on yesterday's anniversary and on the criminal challenge so brutally thrown in our faces on 11 September 2001. The terrorist attacks of that day were not an isolated event. They were extreme examples of global scourge which requires a broad, sustained and global response.

Broad because terrorism can be defeated only if all nations unite against it. Sustained because the battle against terrorism will not be won easily or overnight. It requires patience and persistence. And global because terrorism is a widespread and complex phenomenon with many deep roots and exacerbating factors.

Mr. President, I believe that such a response can only succeed if we make full use of multilateral institutions. I stand before you as a multilateralist by precedent, by principle, by charter and by duty. I also believe that every government that is committed to the rule of law at home must be committed also to the rule of law abroad. And all states have a clear interest, as well as clear responsibility, to uphold international law and maintain international order.

Our founding fathers, the statesmen of 1945, have learned that lesson from the bitter experience of two world wars and a great depression. They recognize that international security is not a zero- sum game. Peace, security and freedom are not finite commodities like land, oil or gold, which one state can acquire at another's expense. On the contrary, the more of peace and security and freedom any one state has, the more its neighbors are likely to have.

And they recognized that by agreeing to exercise sovereignty together, they could gain a hold of the problems that would defeat any one of them acting separately.

If those lessons were clear in 1945, should they have not been much more so today in the age of globalization? On almost no item on our agenda does any one seriously contend that each nation can fend for itself. Even the most powerful countries know that they need to work with others in multilateral institutions to achieve their aims.

Only by multilateral action can we ensure that open markets offer benefits and opportunities to all. Only by multilateral action can we give people in the least developed countries the chance to escape the ugly misery of poverty, ignorance and disease. Only by multilateral action can we protect ourselves from acid rain or global warming, from the spread of HIV-AIDS, the illicit trade in drugs or the odious traffic in human beings. That applies even more to the prevention of terrorism.

Individual states may defend themselves by striking back at terrorist groups and other countries that harbor or support them, but only concerted vigilance and cooperation among all states with constant systematic exchange of information offers any real hope of denying the terrorists their opportunities.

On all these matters, for any one state, large or small, choosing to follow or reject the multilateral path must not be a simple matter of political convenience. It has consequences far beyond the immediate context.

When countries work together, in multilateral institutions, developing, respecting, and when necessary, enforcing international law, they also develop mutual trust and more effective cooperation on other issues. The more a country makes use of multilateral institutions, thereby respecting shared values and accepting the obligations and restraints inherent in those values, the more others will trust and respect it and the stronger its chance to exercise true leadership.

And among multilateral institutions, this universal organization has a special place. Any state, if attacked, retains the inherent right of self-defense under Article 51 of the charter. But beyond that, when states decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations.

Member states attach importance -- great importance, in fact -- to such legitimacy and to the international rule of law. They have shown, notably in the action to liberate Kuwait 12 years ago, that they are willing to take actions under the authority of the Security Council, which they were not be willing to take without it.

The existence of an effective international security system depends on the council's authority, and therefore on the council having the political will to act even in the most difficult cases, when agreement seems elusive at the outset.

The primary criterion for putting an issue on the council's agenda should not be the receptiveness of the parties, but the existence of a grave threat to world peace.

Mr. President, let me now turn to four current threats to world peace where true leadership and effective action are badly needed.

First, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recently many of us have been struggling to reconcile Israel's legitimate security concerns with Palestinian humanitarian needs. But these limited objectives cannot be achieved in isolation from the wider political context. We must return to the search for a just and comprehensive solution which alone can bring security and prosperity to both peoples and, indeed, to the whole region.

The ultimate shape of the Middle East peace settlement is well known. It was defined long ago in Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. And its Israeli-Palestinian components were spelled out even more clearly in Resolution 1397: land for peace, end to terror, end to occupation, two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by- side within secure and recognized borders. Both parties accept this vision, but we can reach it only if we move rapidly and in parallel on all fronts.

The so-called sequential approach has failed. As we agreed at the quartet meeting in Washington last May, an international peace conference is needed without delay to set out a road map of parallel steps: steps to strengthen Israel's security, steps to strengthen Palestinian economic and political institutions, and steps to settle the details of the final peace agreement.

Meanwhile, humanitarian steps to relieve Palestinian suffering must be intensified. The need is urgent.

Second, the leadership of Iraq continues to defy mandatory resolutions adopted by the Security Council under chapter 7 of the charter. I have engaged Iraq in an in-depth discussion on a range of issues, including the need for arms inspectors to return in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Efforts to obtain Iraq's compliance with the council's resolution must continue. I appeal to all those who have influence with Iraq's leaders to impress on them the vital importance of accepting the weapons inspections. This is the indispensable first step towards assuring the world that all Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have indeed been eliminated -- and let me stress, towards the suspension and eventual ending of the sanctions that are causing so many hardships for the Iraqi people.

I urge Iraq to comply with its obligations for the sake of its own people and for the sake of world order. If Iraq's defiance continues, the council must face its responsibilities.

Third, permit me to press all of you, as leaders of the international community, to maintain your commitment to Afghanistan.

I know I speak for all of you in welcoming President Karzai to this assembly and congratulating him on his escape from last week's vicious assassination attempt -- a graphic reminder of how hard it is to uproot the remnants of terrorism in any country where it has taken root.

It was the international community's shameful neglect of Afghanistan in the 1990s that allowed the country to slide into chaos, providing a fertile breeding ground for Al Qaida.

Today, Afghanistan urgently needs help in two areas. The government must be helped to extend its authority throughout the country. Without this, all else may fail. And donors must follow through on their commitments to help with rehabilitation, reconstruction and development. Otherwise, the Afghan people will lose hope, and desperation we know breeds violence.

And finally, in South Asia, the world has recently come closer than for many years past to a direct conflict between two countries with nuclear capability.

The situation may now have calmed a little, but it remains perilous. The underlying cause must be addressed.

If a fresh crisis erupts, the international community might have a role to play, though I gladly acknowledge and indeed strongly welcome the efforts made by well-placed member states to help the two leaders find a solution.

Excellencies, let me conclude by reminding you of your pledge two years ago at the Millennium Summit to make the United Nations a more effective instrument in the service of the peoples of the world. Today, I ask you to honor that pledge. Let us all recognize from now on in each capital, in every nation, large and small, that the global interest is our national interest.

Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Well you just heard it, the secretary general of the U.N. with two distinct messages. One, saying that any case against Iraq must be worked through the U.N., saying there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy of the U.N. And at the same time, he called for inspectors to return to Iraq, and saying efforts to get the Iraqis to comply with existing U.N. resolutions must continue. This at a time when the Bush administration is sharing with the public for the first time the so-called white papers, which lay out the some -- 16 existing resolutions that have been violated.

Let's turn to Jeff Greenfield here as we await the president's speech, which is just about nine minutes from now, just to see how you think this speech will play?

GREENFIELD: Well, I think Kofi Annan set down a marker. It is interesting, he is a diplomat, and he spoke diplomatically. When he spoke to Iraq, he spoke to Iraq. He said you defied the United Nations. When he said, you ought to let them in for the sake of your own people, you can either interpret that to mean, or we'll keep sanctions going, or you could also interpret that to mean, or there will be a much heavier price to pay. And he even alluded to the fact that if you don't let inspectors in, the council must face its responsibility, never saying what that is. He did not ever address the United States by name, but I think the message is very clear, do not do anything without international sanctions.

And the quote that you said, Paula, you know, there is no substitute for that legitimacy.

It's also interesting that if in fact we hear President Bush call for Iraq to let in weapons inspectors, they might have to square that with some the remarks of Vice President Cheney in his speech a couple of weeks ago, where he all but dismissed any possible relevance or help that the weapons inspectors could supply, so that's going to be another interesting thing to wait and hear.




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