Annan: Iraq War 'Illegal'

The U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq without the approval of the U.N. Security Council was "illegal," Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) told the BBC on Wednesday.

"I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time — without U.N. approval and much broader support from the international community," he said in an interview with the BBC World Service.

The U.N. Charter allows nations to take military action with Security Council (search) approval as an explicit enforcement action, such as during the Korean War and the 1991 Gulf War (search).

But in 2003, in the build-up to the Iraq war, the United States dropped an attempt to get a Security Council resolution approving the invasion when it became apparent it would not pass.

At the time, Annan had underlined the lack of legitimacy for a war without U.N. approval, saying: "If the United States and others were to go outside the Security Council and take unilateral action they would not be in conformity with the Charter."

On Wednesday, after being asked three times whether the lack of council approval for the war meant it was illegal, he said: "From our point of view and the U.N. Charter point of view it was illegal."

He also said that the wave of violence engulfing Iraq puts in doubt the national elections scheduled for January.

There could not be "credible elections if the security conditions continue as they are now," he told the BBC.

On Tuesday, Annan's top envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi (search), said the security situation will be the overriding factor in determining how many U.N. international staffers can return to Iraq. There is now a ceiling of 35 U.N. staff in the country.

Qazi spoke Tuesday at a Security Council meeting called to discuss Annan's latest report on Iraq, which warned that violence could make it more difficult to create the conditions for successful elections. Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has said he is determined to hold the election by Jan. 31.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth (search), all but ruled out any delay beyond the Jan. 31 deadline for elections in Iraq's interim constitution.

"Let there be no doubt: we are committed to this timetable," he told council members Tuesday.