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Annan to meet with 'Group of Friends' of Iraq to chart way forward

18 February 2004 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is slated to meet tomorrow with several countries interested in the Iraq situation to share ideas about the matter, a UN spokesman said today.

"This will be an opportunity for the Secretary-General and the members [of the so-called Group of Friends of Iraq] to exchange views on the current situation and the way forward in Iraq," his spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said at a press briefing in New York.

The Secretary-General's Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, is also expected to attend the meeting.

In December, the Secretary-General met with a group that included Iraq's neighbours - Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey - and Egypt, as well as the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council - China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States - and five of its 10 elected members - Angola, Chile, Germany, Pakistan and Spain.

Asked this morning by reporters if he would ask the Japanese Government for any specific assistance regarding Iraq's reconstruction effort during his upcoming trip to Tokyo, the Secretary-General said he hoped to have a series of discussions with the Japanese authorities on issues "that are of keen interest to both the Government and the UN."

"Obviously, Iraq would be one, we will talk about Afghanistan, we will talk about the UN reform, and Japan's involvement in UN activities," Mr. Annan said. "I will talk to them about developments in Iraq, yes. But I think they've already been quite generous with the contribution they made in Madrid for the reconstruction and of course they've also put men on the ground."

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