UNITED NATIONS — After months of playing no significant role in Iraq, Secretary-General Annan spoke yesterday with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, advising it of the United Nations' views on what he said was "almost" a civil war.
Since the midterm elections, the deliberations of the group — headed by a former secretary of state, James Baker, and a former congressman, Lee Hamilton — have been hailed in Washington as crucial to the White House's Iraq policy. After evading the team two months ago, Mr. Annan addressed it yesterday in a teleconference from his New York office.
"They wanted to meet him since September," a spokesman for Mr. Annan, Stephane Dujarric, said.
The group also has been briefed by Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown and the U.N. representative in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, Mr. Dujarric added.
Since the onset of the war in Iraq — which, like military operations in the Balkans and the Ivory Coast, was initiated without Security Council authorization — the United Nations has been wary of getting involved in the country. It withdrew altogether after its Baghdad headquarters was bombed in August 2003, only to return with a small contingency.
Several U.N.-based diplomats said yesterday that Mr. Annan and his top advisers have written Iraq off. The advisers and Mr. Annan believe, the diplomats say, that America bypassed the United Nations and got into trouble in Iraq, and that America should now get out of trouble without their help.
"They see no value in helping in Iraq," a Western diplomat, who spoke about U.N. leadership on condition of anonymity, said. He noted that the U.N. Baghdad mission has been content to count the dead from the sidelines, as it did in a much-publicized report last week.
Mr. Dujarric said the death report was based on Iraqi Health Ministry figures and that the United Nations is "confident in those numbers." The United Nations, he said, is responsible for a "wide range of work in Iraq," which includes trying to "bring Iraq's neighbors into efforts to stabilize the country."