Speaking at the conclusion of the Council's meeting, which was attended by five Foreign Ministers, the Secretary-General noted that over the past 20 years the Iraqi people had been through two major wars, internal uprisings and more than a decade of debilitating sanctions. "In the short term, the conflict that is now clearly about to start can only make things worse - perhaps much worse," he said.
The Secretary-General also stressed that Iraq's most vulnerable citizens - the elderly, women and children, and the disabled - are denied basic health care for lack of medicines and that nearly a million children suffer from chronic malnutrition. "I am sure members of this Council will agree that we must do everything we can to mitigate this imminent disaster, which could easily lead to epidemics and starvation."
The Council was meeting to hear reports from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which is responsible for the biological and chemical weapons profile, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is in charge of investigating the nuclear arms programme, on what issues remain for ridding Iraq of banned weapons of mass destruction.
The Secretary-General said the UN had done its best to assess the possible effects of war in terms of refugees and human need, but of the $123.5 million requested a month ago in preparation for an Iraqi conflict, only $45 million had been pledged so far and only $34 million received.
"I'm afraid we shall very soon be coming back with an appeal for much larger sums to finance actual relief operations - and I earnestly hope that Member States will respond with generosity and speed," he said.