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The United Nations Security Council may send multinational forces to Iraq to help stabilize the security situation after sovereignty is transferred to a provisional government at the end of June, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said Tuesday in Tokyo.

“I do foresee the Security Council deciding to maintain an international force in Iraq, even after the handover, to be able to assist with the security,” Annan told the Japan National Press Club.

His remark apparently is aimed at involving France and Germany in the reconstruction process to help improve the security situation.

Annan voiced reluctance over sending U.N. staff back permanently to Iraq unless the security condition improves.

The U.N. withdrew its officials from Baghdad following a truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters there on Aug. 19 that killed dozens of its officials, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

“For the U.N. staff to go back in larger numbers, which we are prepared to do, the security condition must improve,” he said. “Otherwise, I risk repeating the experience of 19 August.”

In a speech delivered to the House of Councilors earlier in the day, Annan welcomed the resumption of six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program that will begin Wednesday in China and involve North and South Koreas, Japan, China, the United States and Russia.

Annan expressed hope Tokyo and Pyongyang will fully resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I understand how painful this has been for the people and families involved, and I express my deep sympathy to all those who have suffered,” he said.

It was the first time a a U.N. secretary general has made a speech in the Diet.

Annan said the U.N. is ready to offer support toward building a consensus among Iraqis on the details of the provisional government.

After the provisional government is established, the U.N. intends to help the new authorities organize elections, draft a constitution and engage in other procedures to build a democratic nation, Annan said.

“Unfortunately, credible elections cannot take place by 30th June,” when the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority is expected to transfer its power, he said.

Annan said he forwarded a U.N. report on Iraq’s transfer of sovereignty, compiled by special U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, to the Iraqi Governing Council, the coalition authority and the U.N. Security Council. Annan said “clear, united and unambiguous support” of the Security Council is necessary for the international organization to succeed in Iraq.

U.N. member states were split over the U.S. decision to wage war on Iraq last March, forcing Washington to start the war without the support of key European nations France and Germany.

“I have continued to plead unity of the Council,” he said.

He also hailed Japan’s initiatives in Iraq’s reconstruction process, calling its economic assistance “generous.”

“And after a difficult debate, you have dispatched the Self-Defense Forces to Samawah to help with reconstruction and humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Annan called for Japan’s continuing assistance for the United Nations, despite the nation’s discontent over the costly expenses it shoulders for the organization in return for a limited influence over the decision-making process.

In 2004, Japan contributed roughly 20 percent of the U.N. budget, second only to the United States, provoking public criticism for the heavy burden amid Japan’s tight budget.

Annan meanwhile branded as “anachronistic” a U.N. Charter clause that stipulates that Japan and six other nations that fought the Allies during World War II are enemy states.

The charter, adopted in 1945, allows the U.N. to resort to arms without the approval of the Security Council if these “enemy” nations are believed to be invading other nations.

Annan has appointed 16 experts, including Sadako Ogata, chief of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, as members of a high-level panel to discuss U.N. reforms and how the international organization should deal with global terrorism.

Annan is expected to leave Tokyo on Wednesday after a five-day visit here.

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