Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Annan names representative in Iraq

RECONSTRUCTION Sergio Vieira de Mello will represent the UN secretary general in Iraq, as world leaders hailed a new era of international cooperation in the country


A day after UN sanctions on Iraq were ended, the US announced Saddam Hussein's army had been abolished while UN Secretary General Kofi Annan named Sergio Vieira de Mello his special representative in Iraq.

Vieira de Mello is the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and will serve in Iraq for four months.

The UN Security Council asked Annan to appoint a special representative after it lifted 13-year-old economic sanctions against Iraq and endorsed wide-ranging powers for the US-led occupying forces in that country.

World leaders hailed a new era of international cooperation over Iraq after the vote. France, Germany and Russia all welcomed the adoption of the resolution, marking a turning point in the diplomatic stand-off with the US over their opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

Syria, the only Arab member of the Security Council, did not show up for the vote in which the resolution was approved by the remaining 14 council members, but said it wished to back it.

The Security Council gave war allies the US and Britain broad control over the devastated country's future, in particular its vast oil wealth, thereby lifting some obstacles to reconstruction.

The civilian occupation administration headed by Paul Bremer announced on Friday that Saddam's former army and vast security apparatus, along with the defense and information ministries, had all been abolished.

A non-political army is to be created in its place.

"These actions are part of a robust campaign to show the Iraqi people that the Saddam regime is gone and will never return," a senior official from the US-led coalition said.

The commander of coalition ground forces, Lieutenant-General David McKiernan, said all heavy and automatic weapons would soon be banned, after an amnesty period of around two weeks during which people could hand them in.

He also that the coalition hoped to solve supply problems for petroleum products for Iraqis in the short term.

In a sign of the chaos still reigning in Iraq, US soldiers seized a truck near the border with Syria believed to be loaded with 18kg gold bars.

"The bars may have a total worth of US$500 million, depending on karat weight and purity," the US Central Command said.

Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment stopped the Mercedes truck and its two occupants on Thursday in Al Qaim.

"The occupants told the soldiers that they had been paid a total of 350,000 dinars (US$350) to pick up the truck in Baghdad and drive it to an unnamed individual in Al Qaim," said a US Central Command statement.

The occupants said they had been told the bars were bronze, but authorities believe the bars are made of gold and are having them tested.

Al Qaim, a town on the Euphrates across the border from Syria, has been a key transit point for fleeing members of the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi central bank and other banks were looted by the regime before the war and were ransacked again in the chaos that followed the fall of the Iraqi capital.

The coalition meanwhile issued its second appeal this week for Iraqis to come forward with information on weapons of mass destruction, promising them cash and protection from possible retribution by former officials.

The pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam's regime was cited as the main reason the coalition went to war against Iraq in March.

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