Annan expecting US to attend Iraq meeting

 

The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he expects the United States to participate "at a senior level" in a meeting on Iraq this month, despite American reluctance to cede any control.

Annan has scheduled a Jan. 19 session in New York with leaders of the Iraqi Governing Council, headed by Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister, to discuss the future of UN involvement in Iraq.

He has also invited the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, but the Bush administration has been noncommittal about the meeting, which the Iraqis want before the occupation ends in July and a provisional government takes power.

"I am looking forward to a good and constructive meeting on the 19th and I expect all the parties to attend," Annan told reporters on his first day back at work from a holiday in the Caribbean. "I expect the U.S. to participate. I expect the meeting to be at a senior level."

He said he hoped for an American delegation from Baghdad and believed Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the senior British envoy in Iraq and a former UN ambassador, would come to the one-day session.

Diplomats said the United States had no choice but to attend and Bush administration officials said the only question now was who would come.

Annan this week spoke to US Secretary of State Colin Powell as well as other senior officials in Washington about the meeting.

Annan first proposed the meeting last month in a phone call to President George W. Bush, who was positive but noncommittal, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

But the decision then appeared to be caught in conflicting strategies in Washington, with some officials, particularly in the Pentagon, worried about another clash on Iraq with the Security Council and any ceding of control before the occupation ends in June, diplomats said.