Interim Foreign Affairs Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, on 16 December criticised the UN for failing to take appropriate action to stop the suffering of Iraqis during Saddam Hussein's rule. Addressing the UN Security Council as a guest speaker, Zebari said it was time for the organisation to stop 'bickering' over Iraq's future, as it had done in the run up to the US-led invasion, and come to the country's immediate assistance. 'One year ago, the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable,' Zebari said. 'The UN as an organisation failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny of 35 years. The UN must not fail the Iraqi people again.' In his attack on the organisation, Zebari added that the UN had been reduced to 'squabbling over political differences' before the invasion, and that this should 'take a back seat to the daily struggle for security, jobs, basic freedoms and all the [human] rights the UN is chartered to uphold'.
Zebari's comments, the tone of which reportedly surprised many diplomats, were subject to a strong, sharp rebuttal from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. 'I think the UN has done as much as it can for Iraq,' Annan said. 'So quite honestly I do not think today is the time to hurl accusations.' During the Security Council meeting Annan described the capture of Saddam as 'an opportunity for a new beginning in the vital task of helping Iraqis to take control of their destiny' (MEED 10:12:03).