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water, if relief supplies did not reach them in time. He hoped the sufferings of the civilian population would be relieved as soon as possible. While the responsibility for that lay with those countries that had initiated military action against Iraq, the international community must also assist the United Nations in carrying out the important task of providing humanitarian relief.

The Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, Yahya Mahmassani, told the Council that the resolution adopted at the end of the League’s Ministerial Council meeting on 23 March had stated that the aggression against Iraq was a violation of the UN Charter and the principles of international law, as well as a threat to international peace and security. The League had called for the unconditional withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq and held them responsible for all the repercussions of the aggression. It had also called on the Council to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of forces. In addition, the League had called for a reaffirmation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.

At a time when there was hope for the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he was stunned to see the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Mr. Mahmassani said. The threat to the security of Arab nations was the possession by Israel of weapons of mass destruction. The other threat was the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The current international system was facing a grave danger, he said, calling on the Council to shoulder its responsibility as the organ responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. How could the Council remain silent while an unjust war was being waged? He called on the Council to put an end to the war and call for the immediate withdrawal of the invading forces.

Meanwhile Greece’s Ambassador, Adamantios Vassilakis, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the EU was committed to the territorial integrity, sovereignty, political stability and full and effective disarmament of Iraq. It also respected the rights of the Iraqi people, including all persons belonging to minorities. The EU believed the United Nations must continued to play a central role during and after the current crisis, and that the Council should give the United Nations a strong mandate for that mission.

The international community urgently needed to address the major humanitarian needs that would arise from the conflict, Ambassador Vassilakis said. He supported efforts based on proposals made by the Secretary-General to adapt the Oil-for-Food programme to changing circumstances so that it would continue to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. On the regional front, the EU expressed solidarity with, and stood ready to assist, countries faced with problems and risks as a result of conflict, including possible refugee flows.

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Iraq: Secretary-General

26 March – Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced increasing concern over civilian casualties of the conflict in Iraq, and met with his top humanitarian officials to discuss contingency plans for United Nations relief agencies to return to the country as soon as the military action permits.

“I must say I’m getting increasingly concerned by humanitarian casualties in this conflict,” Mr. Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York shortly before he was due to chair a top-level meeting of UN relief agencies.

“We’ve just heard the reports that a missile struck a market in Baghdad and I would want to remind all belligerents that they should respect international humanitarian law and take all necessary steps to protect civilians,” he added. “Besides, they are responsible for the welfare of the civilian population in the area.”

He said he would discuss with the UN agency heads contingency planning of what should be done once the military conflict permitted. “We will be reviewing the situation, and I think we are all ready, [and] geared up to be able to go back to Iraq and resume their work as soon as the situation permits,” he added.

Mr. Annan said he was confident the UN Security Council would find a solution on adjustments to the now-suspended Oil-for-Food programme, which allows Baghdad to use part of its crude oil sales to buy relief supplies. Some 60 per cent of the Iraqi population depend solely on the programme for their monthly food rations.

Council members held private discussions this morning on ways to adjust operations based on suggestions from Mr. Annan seeking ways to enable the UN to continue to provide humanitarian assistance despite the temporary halt to the programme. Operations were suspended on 17 March when Mr. Annan

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