Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Secretary-General and US President hold 'constructive' talks on Iraq

3 February 2004 With general agreement that sovereignty should be handed over to the Iraqis as soon as possible, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and United States President George W. Bush today held talks in Washington, D.C., aimed at achieving that end.

Following their meeting, Mr. Annan voiced hope that the electoral team he is sending to Iraq would persuade the country's people to decide on a process by which to choose their government and break the present impasse.

"Everyone agrees that sovereignty should be handed over to Iraq as soon as possible," he told a joint news conference held with the US President. "The date of 30 June was been suggested, but there is some disagreement as to the mechanism for establishing the provisional government."

Mr. Annan recalled that during meetings last month in New York, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council indicated that they would accept the conclusions of a UN team. "So we do have a chance to help break the impasse which exists at the moment and move forward," he said.

He said he hoped the electoral team would "be able to play a role getting the Iraqis to understand that if they could come to some consensus and some agreement on how to establish that government, they're halfway there."

Overall, the Secretary-General characterized the meeting as "very good and lengthy." Echoing this view, President Bush said the two held "a really constructive dialogue."

The President said that with regard to Iraq, he has "always said that the United Nations needs to play a vital role, and it's an important role."

He added that the two leaders discussed "ways to make sure that by working together the Iraqi people can be free, and their country stable and prosperous, and an example of democracy in the Middle East."

Other topics discussed with the Secretary-General included Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the Middle East and Africa, Mr. Bush said.

Also today, the Secretary-General had lunch with the President at the White House. During his one-day official visit to the US capital, Mr. Annan also met separately with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Also on his programme were meetings with members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, including Majority Leader Bill Frist, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Bill Young, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

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