10 Questions For Kofi Annan

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The Bush administration, which had defied the United Nations by going to war with Iraq, last week appeared to reverse course, seeking U.N. help in the postwar reconstruction. In a wide-ranging conversation with TIME's James Carney, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan discussed that effort, the role he sees for the embattled world body and his own plans.

The U.S. went to war without U.N. approval. Now it has put forward a resolution asking for greater U.N. involvement in Iraq. What changed?
I think it has become obvious that the challenge is much larger than anticipated and that one nation cannot tackle it alone. And the greater the participation in the alliance, the more manageable it gets ... The member states here are all concerned about stability in Iraq, and they see that it's in everyone's interest to pull together and ensure that Iraq doesn't fall into chaos. So I think despite the differences before the war, we can get an agreement on a new resolution.

Do you believe the U.S. was wrong to go to war without U.N. approval?
Obviously, it would have been better if there had been a bit of patience and the U.S. had worked with the other states.

What must the U.S. do to get support from the Security Council and other nations?
My sense is that the member states believe there should be a real international effort, both on the civilian part of the operation and on the military side. They believe there should not only be burden sharing, there should also be sharing of responsibility and authority. So the U.S. will have to look at its own approach and decide how much it is prepared to adjust that approach to bring the other nations on board.

Would that require ceding ultimate authority over the military operation?
Not necessarily, because we've had other multinational forces which the U.S. commanded.

Would it make sense for the U.N. to take over the civilian administration of Iraq?
That has usually been the model, whether you look at Afghanistan or Kosovo or East Timor.

Given that no significant stocks of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have been found, should the Council, or you, feel vindicated?
Most of the member states felt that the case for war was weak. In the absence of weapons of mass destruction, I think the case is weakened further.

Were you surprised when the Bush Administration was forced to retract some of the evidence it had offered on WMD?
We had weapons inspectors who took three years to prepare, and then were shut down in about 31ŕ2 months, when (then U.N. chief arms inspector Hans) Blix said they needed more time. We've always felt in this organization that disarmament requires patience and time. And we didn't have it. I think what's happening in Iraq proves that that judgment wasn't entirely wrong.

Do you think President Bush is contemptuous of the U.N.?
In discussions leading to the war, when the Council showed resistance, there were statements that the U.N. was irrelevant. I hope those statements were made in the heat of the moment and that as tensions have cooled down one realizes that this organization has a role to play and can serve the interests of all nations, big and small, and that there are issues no one nation—however powerful—can solve alone.

How much longer will you serve as Secretary-General?
I think I have about three years to go, and that's it.

What will you do?
I haven't decided yet, but I tell my friends that I would want to farm, that I would want to go back to nature. And my wife laughs at that. But I think I'll be very happy to be able to do something in Africa to help the continent to be able to feed itself.