( AP ) - Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Thursday that military action against Iran would be "a real disaster" and said the Middle East could explode if the international community doesn't handle the many conflicts in the region very carefully.
He also said there was "quite a bit of hypocrisy on all sides" in trying to resolve the five-year conflict in Sudan's Darfur region - especially in encouraging the African Union to take on peacekeeping when it didn't have the resources.
At a wide-ranging round-table with journalists, Annan said he didn't have enough information to comment on the justification for the U.N. Security Council's demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment until it allays suspicions its nuclear program is trying to produce weapons. Tehran insists the program is peaceful, aimed only at using nuclear power to generate electricity.
Annan said he had told Iranian leaders that "if indeed you have nothing to hide and you are not making a bomb and your intentions are pacific, open your doors, let the inspectors come, let them go anywhere - find a way of reassuring the world, not just the U.S."
Asked how the international community should deal with Iran, he said dialogue was the only way.
"We cannot, I'm sure, take on another military action in Iran, and I hope no one is contemplating it. It would be a real disaster," he said.
Calling the broader Middle East "a very dangerous region," Annan said that "many conflicts have converged and are feeding off each other, and the international community has to handle that situation very carefully because any miscalculation can lead to very serious explosions."
He said Lebanon's political crisis and inability to elect a president was "very worrying," adding that it was a bit like the infighting among the Palestinians, which pits the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas against the Islamic militants of Hamas.
Annan also cited the dangers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sunni-Shiite divide in Iraq and other Mideast countries, and unrest in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On Darfur, he criticized wealthy nations with well-equipped militaries for refusing to provide essential helicopters for the joint U.N.-African Union force that took over peacekeeping there early this year.
He urged U.N. member states to heed the warning of peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno that the world body's peacekeeping operations are overstretched with more than 100,000 troops in the field.
"I don't think the U.N. is in a position today to go and take over in Afghanistan," he said. "I don't think the U.N. will get the resources to go and play a major and active role in Somalia. We are already struggling to get the resources for Darfur, where some have declared it a genocide."
Annan was in New York to receive the first MacArthur Award for International Justice from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. As U.N. secretary-general, he promoted the concept of an international "responsibility to protect" that was adopted by world leaders at a 2005 summit.
He said his recent successful mediation after Kenya's post-election violence "was a hopeful example" of putting this responsibility into practice.