Annan to meet Powell, Rice next week

Published December 12, 2004

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 11: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will meet US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice next week to talk about Iraq, UN officials said on Friday.

The visit comes after the Bush administration on Thursday expressed confidence in Mr Annan, after pointedly avoiding a statement of support when Congressional hardliners last week called for the secretary-general's resignation over corruption in the UN oil-for-food program for Iraq.

Mr Annan, who was scheduled to be in Washington earlier , was invited by Mr Powell to meet him and his designated successor, Ms Rice, next Thursday, when it is expected they will discuss the pressing issue of UN workers for next month's Iraqi elections.

Mr Annan also intends to raise the crisis in Sudan and joint UN-US activities in Afghanistan, the officials said.

Colin Powell, a close friend of Mr Annan, has been leaning on him for months to field more election workers for the Jan 30 vote despite pressure from UN staff, worried about security since the bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad in August last year.

The United Nations has raised its ceiling for international staff in Iraq to 59 and expects to have 25 electoral workers there shortly, with the United States arranging for protection. "We've obviously been working closely with UN officials to support their work, particularly in helping to address security concerns, and we'll continue to do that," said State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.

After the Washington visit , Mr Annan will go to Brussels for a Dec 17 summit of the European Union, which invited him to demonstrate support amid calls in Congress to force him out of office.

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