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Gommersal discusses U.N. view toward current Iraqi situation

Expressing a desire for the United Nations to focus on broader world issues as it moves into the next millennium, Stephen Gommersal, the United Kingdom's deputy permanent representative to the U.N. Security Council, offered an inside look into the United Nations' recent talks with Iraq in a speech last night.

The United Nations' delayed response to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq has been a source of criticism, Gommersal said. He noted that the delay was largely caused by the Iraqi government's refusal to accept U.N. proposals.

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Iraq's acceptance of aid from outside sources would have been an indication to the Iraqi people that the country's problems were being caused by its government, he said.

In response, the Security Council proposed food-for-oil exchanges to "try to alleviate the conditions of the people without bolstering the Iraqi regime," Gommersal said.

'Run out of resources'

"The Security Council has run out of resources," Gommersal said. He explained that two factors have contributed to the tense situation: the United Nations' simultaneous operation in both Somalia and Bosnia for an extended period of time, and the foreign policy consequences of the 1994 Congressional elections.

According to Gommersal, the new representatives elected in 1994 were in favor of heightened scrutiny of U.N. peacekeeping missions by the United States, and made it more difficult for the U.N. to obtain support and authorization for those operations.

Moving beyond the Iraqi conflict, Gommersal said the United Nations needs to be directed by a consensus of members of the global community toward issues that are universally important. Gommersal explained that the U.N. global agenda has three primary areas of focus: poverty, the environment and human rights.

To deal with global poverty, the United Nations must develop a method "to shift developing countries from dependency to self-reliance," Gommersal said. He explained that citizens of developing countries need to be empowered through civil society to control their own future. Gommersal said he hoped that future would include expanding women's rights and universal education.

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The United Nations has also encouraged an increased global focus on human rights, Gommersal said. He added that this would include an increased level of self-criticism within countries that have a history of disregarding human rights.

Gommersal credited U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan for making full use of his resources to address U.N. reform. "The majority of countries would like to see the expansion (of the Security Council) in permanent and non-permanent capacities," he said. Gommersal said a move toward better representation of global community would be "healthy" for the Security Council.

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