Strasbourg, 23.01.2003 - Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President Peter Schieder made the following statement today:
"The United States administration strongly criticized the recent joint statement of the French President Chirac and German Chancellor Schroeder in favour of a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis. Some went as far as to claim that the two countries were isolated in their opposition to a new war with Iraq and that the majority of European countries, particularly in the 'new Europe which has shifted its center of gravity to the East' supported the military option pursued by the United States.
Such claims are unfounded. We are not divided on Iraq. In September last year, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, adopted, with an overwhelming majority, a resolution on the threat of military action against Iraq, demanding that:
- all Council of Europe member states, observers and special guests step up their efforts to avoid a new war in Iraq and to find a solution to the Iraqi problem in accordance with the United Nations' principles and through its mechanisms;
- the members of the United Nations Security Council resort to military intervention only after having exhausted all other approaches, and only if a flagrant violation of the United Nations' resolutions is confirmed by the inspectors' future report;...
- all Council of Europe member states refrain from supporting any action not covered by a mandate of the United Nations Security Council.
I should like to recall that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe brings together members from national parliaments of 44 European countries, representing 800 million European citizens. It would be difficult to find any other body, which would be able to reflect the European public opinion with greater authority and legitimacy.
The Assembly is likely to hold a second debate on the situation in Iraq during its winter session starting next Monday in Strasbourg (27 - 31 January)."
Council of Europe Spokesperson and Press
Tel. +33 3 88 41 25 60 - Fax. +33 3 88 41 39 11