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"IRAQ AND I:" HISTORY ACCORDING TO INSPECTOR DEMISTURA

5/1/2003

The Special Representative for South Lebanon must have received some signal that he should do something like defending the Secretary-General who was being savaged by the Arab media to the point of being held accountable for facilitating the war over Iraq. Suddenly, Steffan Demistura interrupted his determined handshaking in order to give an interview to Beirut daily "An-Nahar." The substance was mainly a reflection of main points sent by U.N. headquarters to the field staff except for the inevitable personal plug.

Asked about "violent attacks on Kofi Annan to the point of asking him to resign," the Swedish Italian/ Italian Swede (as the case may be) could not help but inject himself in the picture, with counterproductive results. After correctly saying that Annan speaks in a quiet manner not to be confused with inaction, he immediately added an example about himself. "I was an envoy of Annan in 1996 to Iraq in order to prepare his visit," he announced. "The situation was extremely delicate because Ambassador Butler had declared that some presidential palaces were possibly hiding chemical weapons. We had reached a struggle at that level. So Annan sent me to prepare his visit and inspect the palaces. He then arrived with a delegation and the crisis was defused. His visit did not have the approval of important members of the Security Council; to the contrary. Still he decided to make that visit."

While almost everyone in New York is trying to avoid a reference to what is described now as "disastrous" (then "historic") visit, Demistura volunteers it with his own twist. First, it is not true that "important members" of the Security Council were against Annan's visit; in fact, they all encouraged him after he had evaluated the crisis for over a month. Upon his return, he publicly thanked both the U.S. President and U.K. Prime Minister for their position. Another correction relates to historical facts. The visit was in 1998, a year after Annan took over, not in 1996 when Boutrous Ghali was still Security-General and Demistura was playing part-time Protocol Officer, peak-time greeting cards pusher.