December 21, 2006 – Vol. 42, No. 19
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Annan: Iran intervention would be ‘unwise’

Edith M. Lederer

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently said a negotiated settlement with Iran over its nuclear program should be sought, and he warned that military intervention would be “unwise and disastrous.”

Annan, who steps down as U.N. chief Dec. 31, issued the warning as the Security Council debated a resolution that would impose sanctions on Tehran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. The United States is considering sending a second aircraft carrier to Persian Gulf as a show of force against Iran.

He addressed concerns about a possible military operation in Iran at a farewell news conference in response to a question about how the Security Council should deal with crises after the Iraq war. The council refused to authorize a war against Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Annan called the U.N.’s failure to stop the conflict “the worst moment” of his 10 years as secretary-general.

“You mentioned Iran, which implies that there is concern that there may be another military operation there,” Annan told a reporter. “First of all, I don’t think we are there yet, or we should go in that direction.”

“I think it would be rather unwise and disastrous,” he said. “I believe that the council, which is discussing the issue, will proceed cautiously and try and do whatever it can to get a negotiated settlement for the sake of the region and for the sake of the world,” he said.

Annan’s remarks come on the heels of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell casting doubt on a plan under consideration by President George W. Bush that would increase troops in Iraq, calling the U.S. Army overextended and “about broken.”

There are approximately 140,000 U.S. troops and about 5,000 advisers already in Iraq.

Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for former President George H. W. Bush during the 1991 Gulf War, said if more troops were proposed, commanders would have to make their mission clear, determine whether they can accomplish it and what size of military force is appropriate.

“I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work,” said Powell, who was secretary of state from 2001 until last year. “We have to be very, very careful in this instance not just to grab a number out of the air.”

Increasing troops would run counter to recent recommendations by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which set a goal of withdrawing combat troops by early 2008 in support of more aggressive regional diplomacy.

Powell described the U.S. Army as “about broken,” with a shortage of equipment, officers going on repetitive tours and gaps in military coverage elsewhere in the world.

“The current active Army is not large enough and the Marine Corps is not large enough for the kinds of missions they’re being asked to perform,” he said. “And the Congress has a serious task ahead of it, to make sure that the Army and the Marine Corps get the funds they need to sustain themselves and to sustain their equipment and their ammunition.”

(Associated Press)

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