by Ray Fleming
A new figure arrived on the diplomatic scene this week when Hoshyar Zebari was invited to address the United Nations Security Council during its debate on the United States' new, accelerated, plan to hand over power to the initial Iraqi Governing Council by the end of June 2004. Mr Zebari has the title of Foreign Minister in the Governing Council and it came as a surprise to members of the Security Council that he chose to use his first appearance in New York to berate the United Nations for its failure to rescue his country from Saddam Hussein. Speaking with a bluntness seldom heard from anyone occupying the guest seat at the Security Council table, he said: “one year ago, the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable... The UN must not fail the Iraqi people again.” Outside the conference hall after Mr Zebari had spoken, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that, although the Iraqi Foreign Minister was entitled to his opinion, “now is not the time to hurl accusations and counteraccusations.” He might have added, but was too much the diplomat to do so, that Mr Zebari's version of what happened one year ago was not one with which everyone would agree. But it was the criticism the Foreign Minister made of the UN's current absence from Baghdad that most annoyed Mr Annan who pointedly said that the UN needed “more clarity” on what its role in Iraq should be before it could consider re-establishing full representation there.

It should be clear to everyone by now that the United States does not want to give the UN any substantial political role in Iraq despite repeated promises made by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair that it should play a “key role”.