BBC: Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK

Annan warns US over Iraq

The US is seeking support for a military campaign

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says the war against international terrorism can be legitimate only if approved by the Security Council. Mr Annan told the BBC that "when one is trying to deal with a broader threat to international peace and security, there is no alternative but to go through the [UN] Council".

It is only the [UN Security] council that can provide the unique legitimacy that one needs to be able to act

His remarks came as the US kept up the pressure on Iraq - the country that is expected to be the next target of the US-led campaign against terrorism. President George W Bush on Thursday takes his case against Baghdad to the UN General Assembly, where he is expected to urge the international community to back his plans for military action.

On Tuesday, US Vice-President Dick Cheney spoke of possible links between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. In a videotaped message, Mr Cheney warned of dictators obtaining weapons of mass destruction and being prepared to share them with terrorists.

Legitimacy issue
The UN Secretary General acknowledged that the UN Charter gave individual countries the right to self-defence. "But, to contain the terrorists, I submit that you need that essential international co-operation to make it effective," Mr Annan said in the BBC interview. He said "the threat we are dealing with, is much broader" and, as such, "you need the United Nations to be able to be effective".

Cheney said time was not on the West's side "It is only the [UN Security] council that can provide the unique legitimacy that one needs to be able to act."

Mr Annan said it was important that any possible action against Iraq be "multilateral, which also means sanctioned by the Security Council. "I think if one does it unilaterally, or with one or two countries, we don't know what happens at the end, the unexpected consequences of this conflict. Would Iraq remain intact? What happens in the region? How do we pick up the pieces? Who does it? All these issues are very critical that one should bear in mind."

Iraq's call
"We are dealing with an issue of international law, it's an issue of international legitimacy, it's an issue of ensuring that there is some order in this difficult world we live in. If you do not have these rules, I think the world would be a very difficult place to manage."

Mr Annan's remarks - on the anniversary of the 11 September attacks against the US - are expected to refocus international attention on the widespread unease at the US plans to oust Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi vice-president said an attack on Iraq was an attack on all Arabs Iraq has called for Arabs to strike back at American lives and property if the US launches a military attack against Baghdad.

On Tuesday, Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan denounced US and British claims that Iraq was building banned weapons of mass destruction as "lies" and said UN inspectors would only be allowed back into Iraq as part of a comprehensive UN solution to the current crisis.