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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
United Nations News Service (See also > DPI)
22 May 2004

Turmoil in Iraq and Middle East must not hamper Arab League's progress – Annan

22 May 2004 While the Arab world might be in a period of extreme “turbulence and pain,” particularly with the suffering of Palestinians and the upheaval in Iraq, Arab leaders should forge ahead with change so their peoples might enjoy hope and prosperity, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged today.

“The United Nations remains strongly committed to working with you as you continue your quest for development, justice and peace,” he said in a message to the summit meeting in Tunis of the League of Arab States, delivered by Mohamed Sahnoun, his Special Adviser on Africa.

“Above all else, leadership can make a difference between hope and despair, and between renewal and the status quo,” he added.

Referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Secretary-General said the recent escalation by Israel of killing and injury had reached unacceptable levels. “Such actions hinder the search for peace and deepen the bitterness that prevails among Palestinians and the indignation felt in the international community,” he said, condemning those acts and calling on Israel to refrain from further violations of international law and to meet its obligations under the Road Map.

He also noted that some Palestinian groups continue to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks that fuel hatred and fear, and set back their national aspirations. “We should all strongly condemn terrorism, wherever and whenever it occurs; no cause can justify it,” he stressed, and called on the Palestinian Authority to meet its obligations under the Road Map as well, and take effective measures on the ground to curb violence and combat terror.

On the situation in Iraq, the Secretary-General said the United Nations would work with the Arab League to help the country through its difficult transition period. “Whatever our view of the war and its wider implications, we must be united now in helping Iraq through this latest ordeal,” he said.

Mr. Annan also stressed that the League's active support would be crucial during the transition. “The region has a role to play, and must play it. Each of us shares an interest in a free, stable, united and democratic Iraq at peace with itself and with its neighbours,” he said. “That, and nothing else, must be our agenda, and the United Nations is striving to do its part, as circumstances permit.”

The Secretary-General said that despite a “ruinous climate” created by the atmosphere in Iraq and Palestine, he was happy that such a climate had not hindered Arab leaders from addressing the wider agenda of change in the region and congratulated them on their plans to adopt a revised Arab Charter of Human Rights.

“Any process of reform, anywhere in the world, must be home-grown, coming from within. There is nothing that the outside world can tell you about freedom, women's emancipation or the knowledge gap that your own people are not already telling you,” he said.

Leading Arab intellectuals, sociologists and others, thinking only of their own people's well-being, and seeking only to assess their societies' development, are offering a prescription for progress, Mr. Annan noted. “With those recommendations striking a chord throughout the region, it is a source of real encouragement that many of you are strongly supporting them,” he said.

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