updated 11/21/2006 9:24:05 AM ET 2006-11-21T14:24:05

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday that the United States was “trapped in Iraq,” and urged Washington to carefully consider when would be the best time to pull out of the country so the withdrawal does not lead to a further deterioration of security.

“The United States in a way is trapped in Iraq,” Annan said. “It cannot stay and it cannot leave. There are those who maintain that its presence is a problem and there are those who say that if it leaves precipitously, the situation will get worse.”

Annan said the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq “should not lead to a further deterioration of the situation.” The goal should be to leave when Iraqi authorities can ensure a “reasonable, secure environment,” he said.

Annan, whose term ends at the head of the global body ends Jan. 1, said the war in Iraq, and the failure of the U.N. Security Council to prevent the invasion by U.S.-led forces, was the biggest regret he had from his 10-year tenure.

“I firmly believe that the war could have been avoided,” he told reporters at the United Nations in Geneva. “The inspectors should have had a bit more time.”

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