PM: 'The importance of the UN in post-conflict Iraq'
Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the UN's role in post-conflict Iraq should not simply be a humanitarian one but one that also involves political and reconstruction issues. Mr Blair made his comments at a joint press conference with the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in Athens.
Read a transcript of the press conference below.
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen. I have just had a very good discussion with the Prime Minister about Iraq and the role of the international community and the UN in the post-conflict Iraq. As you know, there are lots of discussions going on among capitals, and also among UN Council members, and I am confident that the UN will play an important role, and as we move ahead in the next few weeks I expect that road to become much clearer. And the Prime Minister and I are confident that we will be able to work with all the other leaders and the Council members to find a way forward.
Can I just echo the words of the Secretary General of the United Nations and thank him very much for an excellent discussion. We are agreed on the importance of the role of the United Nations in post-conflict Iraq.
That is a role that should be there, not simply in respect of humanitarian issues, but also in respect of political and reconstruction issues that arise. And I think everyone is agreed frankly that the primary interests are those of the Iraqi people. What they need is a country that is rebuilt after years of Saddam's rule, they need to have proper representative government, they need the proper protection of human rights, and that government needs to be seen as representative, both by the Iraqi people but also by the international community. And I think if we approach the thing in the right spirit of goodwill we will make sure that this situation is handled well, and handled well not just on behalf of the Iraqi people, but also in respect of the United Nations too, and that is what we will work towards.
There was one thing I wanted to add. We also indicated that as we move forward we need to work with the region and the views of the region are very important and that is also being factored in, because Iraq and its neighbours will want to live in peace and so what happens in Iraq is of interest to the region as well.
Prime Minister, there seem very great differences about the roles of the UN, people here talking about them being in the driving seat, Jack Straw suggesting the role might be small. Won't that reinforce the view here that when you talk about the dangers of a bipolar world you are really telling Europe you just have to agree with America in the end?
I am not saying that at all, and I don't think anyone has said that the role of the UN should be small. What we are saying is, as the Secretary General has just said, there should be an important role for the UN and I have just described the areas where it should be important, which is all of those to do with post-conflict Iraq. I think in the end, with goodwill and the right spirit to find agreement, and making sure that in the end it is the interests of the Iraqi people, these are the people that have been freed from years of tyranny, that have gone through an immensely difficult conflict, they need help rebuilding their country. The international community, including ourselves, has got a responsibility to do that. And I would like to see the United States, ourselves, Europe, working in partnership together to make that clear and I believe that is possible. And it requires, of course it requires, give and take on all sides, but I believe from the discussions that I am having with European colleagues and others that that goodwill exists and certainly it is in the interests of the Iraqi people that it does exist.
Your presence in Athens has provoked the biggest demonstrations in 30 years. What is your message to those people, to this big percentage of Greek and European population which consider the invasion of a sovereign country as illegal?
Well my response is what I have said throughout, and of course it is an important democratic right that people have in Europe that they can take to the streets, it is a right that people in Iraq have today, but didn't have for 30 years under Saddam. And let us never forget that though war is a terrible thing, and there are innocent people that die as well as guilty people in a war, let us never forget that in the 30 years that Iraq was under the tyranny of Saddam, hundreds of thousands of people died in the most appalling and brutal circumstances. And I respect the right of people to take the view that the war was wrong, but I hope they also respect our motives in saying that we acted as we did because we genuinely thought it was best for the Iraqi people and the wider world.
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