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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Annan to decide on election team for Iraq

26 January 2004 Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to decide early this week if he will send a United Nations team to Iraq to look into the feasibility of holding elections before the end of June as well as possible alternatives.

"I expect to make a decision between now and Tuesday about our action," the Secretary-General told reporters yesterday in Stockholm during a press encounter following his meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson.

Last Monday in New York, Iraqi and coalition officials asked Mr. Annan to consider sending a team to examine the possibility of holding elections before the return of Iraqi sovereignty on 30 June, as agreed by the parties last November. A leading Iraqi cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has advocated elections.

On Friday, the United Nations confirmed that a two-person team arrived in Baghdad for talks with the coalition on various security matters. But a UN spokesman stressed that a separate field security assessment would be needed should the Secretary-General decide to send in an electoral team.

The situation in Iraq figured in the Secretary-General's talks with Mr. Persson. They also discussed developments in Europe, particularly Cyprus, in light of Mr. Annan's meeting Saturday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as UN reform.

Before arriving in Sweden, the Secretary-General had a breakfast meeting in Davos, Switzerland, with the chief executive officers of some of the world's largest corporations to discuss the Global Compact, an initiative he launched in 1999 to encourage better corporate practices in human rights, labour and the environment.

In his remarks, Mr. Annan praised the more than 1,200 companies from over 70 countries that are now participating in the Compact, as well as dozens of global labour and civil society organizations. He also challenged them to think of ways to make the Compact more effective.



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