Security Council hears 27 speakers in debate on Iraq's disarmament

News and Press Release
Originally published

4709th Meeting* (PM)

Majority support strengthened inspections, oppose use of force

The ongoing debate on how to proceed on disarming Iraq continued this afternoon, as the Security Council, in a follow-up to last week's briefing by the United Nations chief weapons inspectors, convened an open meeting to hear from non-Council members, and heard a broad majority of the 27 speakers support strengthened inspections and oppose the use of military force.

On Friday, the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Hans Blix, and the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, had reported that Iraq's cooperation on procedural matters had recently improved and they had not found any weapons of mass destruction. They pointed out, however, that many banned weapons remained unaccounted for and could only be resolved through Iraq's "immediate, unconditional and active" cooperation.

The inspections began on 27 November, authorized under resolution 1441 (2002), which gave Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its obligation to rid itself of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, obligations that date to 1991 and the end of the Persian Gulf war. Last week's briefing followed a 5 February meeting at which United States Secretary of State Colin Powell presented evidence intended to show that Iraq had defied the inspectors and had developed relations with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The first speaker today, the representative of South Africa, which had requested the meeting on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said strengthening the inspection process was in line with resolution 1441, which mandated "an enhanced inspection regime with the aim of bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process". The message that emanated from last week's debate was that the inspection process in Iraq was working, and Iraq was showing clear signs of cooperating more proactively with the inspectors. None of the information provided so far seemed to justify abandoning the inspection process and immediately resorting to the threatened "serious consequences".

Similarly, the Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States said the fact that Iraq was cooperating made the continuation of the inspections vital. There was no material evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the threat to Arab countries and the Middle East region emanated from Israel's acquisition and production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and its continued occupation of the Arab territories. Why keep silent on Israel's weapons of mass destruction? he asked. Arab foreign ministers had issued a 16 February declaration asserting the commitment of the Arab States to the security and territorial integrity of Iraq and Kuwait and rejecting the threat or the use of force against them or any Arab country.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of Greece told the Council it was clear the people of Europe wanted to achieve the objective of Iraq's full and effective disarmament from weapons of mass destruction peacefully. War was not inevitable. Force should be used as a last resort. It was for the Iraqi regime to end that crisis by complying with the demands of the Council. "Baghdad should have no illusions", he said. "It must disarm and cooperate immediately and fully." He recognized that the unity and firmness of the international community, and the military build-up, had been essential in obtaining the return of the inspectors. Those factors would remain essential if full cooperation was to be achieved.

Several speakers, however, including Australia, Peru, and Japan, urged quick action if the Council was to maintain credibility. The representative of Australia said it was patently clear that Iraq was in further material breach of its obligations. The Council should not wait forever to confront the issue and should move quickly to consider a further resolution that dealt decisively with Iraq's failure to comply with resolution 1441. Delays and divisions in the Council would only play into Iraq's hands.

Iraq's representative said his country's active cooperation with inspectors had resulted in the refutation of all allegations from the United States. He called upon all Member States to put an end to the unjust embargo, eliminate the unilaterally imposed no-fly zones, and heed the call for peace expressed by millions of people around the world over the weekend.

The representatives of Kuwait, Morocco, Cuba, Iran, Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Gambia (on behalf of the African Group), Turkey, Brazil, Viet Nam, New Zealand, Ukraine, Oman, Yemen, Argentina, Sudan, Saint Lucia (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Belarus and India also spoke.

The meeting was called to order at 3:12 p.m. and suspended at 6:37 p.m., to be continued at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, when the Council will hear the remainder of its list of some 60 speakers.


Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said that the 115 Member States and 15 observer States of the United Nations who belonged to the Movement, had called today's meeting, because the Council was engaged in a crucial debate that had important repercussions for the entire international community. The Movement had always understood resolution 1441 to be about verifiable disarmament in Iraq through inspections that would avoid leading the international community into war. Inspections were designed as a necessary intrusive instrument to ensure the elimination of proscribed Iraqi programmes.

In support of the inspection mandate, he was pleased that Iraq had accepted South Africa's offer to provide the experts who had led its programme to destroy its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles for the delivery of those weapons.

The message that emanated from the 14 February debate was that the inspection process in Iraq was working, and Iraq was showing clear signs of cooperating more proactively with the inspectors, he continued. Significantly, the inspectors had also had the opportunity to verify the accuracy of the information that had been provided by several countries. Several countries still claimed to have information on Iraq that could be helpful to the inspectors, and the Council should encourage them to share such information with the inspectors as soon as possible. None of the information provided so far seemed to justify abandoning the inspection process and immediately resorting to the threatened "serious consequences".

The Council had yet to fully utilize the inspection mechanisms of resolution 1441 that would make for more robust and intrusive inspections, he added. Further, the resolution stipulated no time limits. The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) had only been on the ground for 11 weeks, and inspections had been at full operational strength for only two weeks. Mr. Blix had stated that the time frame would depend on which task one had in mind -- - the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, disarmament or monitoring that no new proscribed activities occurred. He had also pointed out that monitoring was essential, and that it would remain an open-ended and ongoing process until the Council decided otherwise.

The Council must redouble its efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to the situation in Iraq in line with international law and the provisions of the United Nations Charter, he said. The United Nations was the most appropriate voice in a world of complex multilateralism and interdependence. The Council's resolutions were binding on all Member States and must be enforced without exception. Resorting to war without fully exhausting all other options represented an admission of failure by the Council in carrying out its mandate of maintaining international peace and security.

MOHAMMED A. ALDOURI (Iraq) said the United States' and United Kingdom's continued feverish efforts towards war was part of their effort to impose hegemony over the Arab region, as a first step towards world dominance. Iraq's record of compliance with Security Council resolutions was unprecedented in the history of the United Nations. During 1991 and 1992, Iraq had destroyed all facilities for weapons of mass destruction and had cooperated with inspectors until 1998. In January 1993, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) had stated Iraq had implemented 95 per cent of Iraq's disarmament obligations. In 1998, the United States had ordered Richard Butler to withdraw inspectors in preparation for operation Desert Fox, during which Iraq was bombed. The United States Government had confirmed then that the operation had destroyed all weapons of mass destruction.

He said in October 2002 Iraq had agreed to the return of inspectors, as a first step in a process to review and lift sanctions. Iraq had provided all kinds of active cooperation. It had submitted a full declaration, and inspectors had been granted immediate access to all sites they wished. Over 700 inspections had been conducted, covering 400 sites. Iraq had also established two commissions to search for documents and materials, and had allowed inspectors to use helicopters and U-2 and Mirage aircraft. Suggestions on outstanding issues by UNMOVIC or countries would be welcome.

He said Iraq's active cooperation had resulted in the refutation of all allegations from the United States. Was there any justification to launch a war against Iraq, under the pretext of concern about weapons of mass destruction, at a time when the country was being monitored by inspectors? He called upon all Member States to shoulder their responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations, put an end to the unjust embargo, eliminate the unilaterally imposed no-fly zones, and heed the call for peace expressed by millions of people around the world over the weekend.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. AL-OTAIBI (Kuwait) said that adoption of resolution 1441 (2002) had been a major achievement of the Council. Today's meeting was convened under more difficult circumstances, posed by Iraq's reluctance to fulfil its commitments under the relevant Council resolutions. Regrettably, it continued to challenge the will of the international community, without fully realizing the repercussions and the gravity of such policies on the stability of the entire Gulf region. That region had suffered for more than 20 years from the negative impact of practices by the Iraqi Government. Everyone was confident last November that the beating of the war drums would come to an end and the Iraqi Government would "come to its senses", by cooperating fully with UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and giving up all of its proscribed weapons.

That optimism, he said, was soon replaced with concern following the submission of its declaration, which was deemed incomplete and lacking in any new information. Indeed, Iraq's lack of full cooperation undermined peace and was leading to the possibility of war. Kuwait, because of its geography, might be more affected than others by such a war. Thus, it undertook some measures to preserve its peace and the security of its people. Iraq must fully commit to the accurate and faithful implementation of all Council resolutions. He supported all efforts made towards a peaceful solution, and urged the Iraqi Government to respond fully to those appeals and resolutions, in a way that would avoid war.

He said his country paid tribute to the inspectors, and hoped that military force would be the last resort. The Iraqi Government alone could spare the Iraqi people and those of the region the negative repercussions of military force by adjusting its position and substantially cooperating with inspectors, not only on procedure and process. The Council unity must be maintained as an important aspect of guaranteeing implementation of the resolutions it adopted. Iraq was similarly frustrating in addressing the situation of the Kuwaiti prisoners of war and missing persons. Those persons had been missing for more than 12 years, yet Iraq had refused to cooperate in remedying that humanitarian dimension.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said that the reports by the chief weapons inspectors had demonstrated certain progress in the inspections. He took note of the efforts by Iraqi authorities to comply with resolution 1441 and said that his country wanted peace to prevail in the Middle East, in order to avoid greater tragedy for the peoples of the region.

Continuing, he encouraged Iraq to demonstrate further compliance with the inspections. United Nations efforts there must continue, and sufficient means must be provided to allow the inspectors to carry out their duties. The Middle East could not tolerate a new war. In fact, it badly needed to have ongoing hotbeds of tension to be extinguished. Morocco had always made it a principle to settle disputes in a peaceful manner, and he hoped that today's meeting would culminate in an approach that would allow peace to prevail in the Middle East. That would strengthen the credibility of the Council, as the body entrusted with maintaining international peace and security.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARILLA (Cuba) said that peace had to be preserved, as did the ideal and raison d'être of the United Nations. Yet, a war between incomparable forces was on the verge of breaking out. On the one side, there was the hegemonic super-Power, with all of its overwhelming military might and technology, backed by its main ally, also a nuclear Power. On the other side was a country whose people had suffered more than 10 years of daily bombings and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, mainly children, through hunger and disease, following its illegal occupation of Kuwait.

He said that worldwide public opinion was opposed to a new war and to the adoption of a unilateral decision by the United States Government, in complete disregard for international rules and United Nations' authority. It was an unnecessary war, under pretexts that were "neither credible nor proven". Iraq had cooperated unquestionably with the inspectors and had confirmed its will to complete implementation of all relevant Council resolutions. It had also recently accepted further components of the inspection process and adopted new legal and executive measures. The present unipolar, unsustainable, unfair and deeply inequitable international order should not be followed by an even more primitive, unstable, unpredictable and dangerous one, he warned.

JAVAD ZARIF (Iran) said that, because his country was one of Iraq's neighbours and had suffered through Iraqi chemical attacks, he wanted assurance that weapons of mass destruction would never again be used in the region. He stressed, however that war was not the answer, as it would only hurt the Iraqi people and create a refugee crisis. Additionally, foreign military intervention would foster extremism and damage regional stability. Declaring that Iraq needed to cooperate more proactively with a strengthened weapons inspection regime, he also reminded delegates that the country had not yet met obligations to release prisoners of war and to not harbour terrorists.

Addressing claims that the United Nations would become "an irrelevant talking society" if it did not show "backbone and courage", he said that the amount of catering to the priorities of one Power should not be the determining factor in measuring the body's effectiveness. Such arguments about effectiveness and related references to morality were weakened by several examples. Those examples included that major Power enabling Israel to ignore Security Council resolutions that demanded an end to its occupation of Arab lands.

There appeared to be a new international trend, he said, characterized by pre-emptive strikes and the use of tactical nuclear weapons against non-nuclear States. That trend was causing global expressions of alarm and undermining international consensus with respect to the disarming of Iraq. In that regard, he emphasized that the Security Council should remain the centre of Iraq-related decision-making and that all members of the international community should genuinely abide by its decisions.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said never had the conditions been better for settling the Iraqi crisis than the period since Iraq's acceptance of inspectors, and its acceptance of resolution 1441. Those positive developments had taken place thanks to the determination of the international community and the unity of the Council. However, those positive developments were also owed to Iraq, which had been able to work in tandem with the peaceful aspirations of the international community.

During each stage of the inspections, he said, the effectiveness of the established system had proved itself. It was vital to see to it that the dynamic created daily by the inspections continued to bring closer an integral implementation of resolution 1441. Despite those positive events, however, the threat of force loomed over the region. Algeria was pleased to note that since adoption of resolution 1441, nothing had happened that would call for the use of force. He emphasized that the decision taken by the international community in Council resolution 687 (1991) to make the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction must not be limited to Iraq, but was equally valid for Israel.

TAWFEEQ AHMED AL-MANSOOR (Bahrain) welcomed the chief inspectors' reports, which included many positive points. Last March, the Summit of the Arab League had welcomed the assurance by Iraq for the independence, sovereignty and security of Kuwait and stressed the importance of creating positive conditions for the development of normal relations between the countries of the region. The United Nations had expressed its grave concern over a war and its possible impact on Iraq. War would lead to untold human suffering, and the international community could not ignore the human factor in Iraq. The people of that country had been suffering for more than 10 years. The sanctions had exacerbated their suffering.

Israel possessed nuclear and chemical arsenals and continued to occupy Arab territories, he said. That country should comply with the demands of the international community. He demanded implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, saying that it was necessary to enforce all international texts, without double standards.

The tasks of UNMOVIC and the IAEA had yielded positive results, he said. Now, it was necessary to allow the inspections more time. Iraq, for its part, should cooperate more actively. The framework created by resolution 1441 had not yet been exhausted. No effort must be spared in resolving the crisis peacefully. The disarmament of Iraq by peaceful means was an alternative to war, and resorting to military force should be the last option. The Council should exhaust every possibility for disarming Iraq peacefully.

ZEID RA'AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said it was the responsibility of the Council to use all possible and reasonable means to resolve the Iraqi issue and settle it through negotiation and dialogue. Implementation of Council resolutions was an obligation of all States, without exception, including in the Middle East. A peaceful exit of the current crisis required Iraq to fully implement the relevant resolutions, 687 (1991), 1286 (1999), and 1441 (2002). The last provided the inspectors with significant rights and authorities to build a robust and efficient inspections system, which would ensure the ending of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes peacefully. Until now, that system had proven an unprecedented efficiency. It should be continued, and enhanced, if necessary, for its failure would be a real threat to international peace and security.

He said his Government called for more cooperation on the part of all relevant parties, including the Iraqi Government, to ensure the end of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes peacefully. In that regard, it welcomed the results of the recent talks in Baghdad, including permission for surveillance flights without conditions, private interviews with Iraqi scientists, and the commitment made by Iraq to enact legislation banning all proscribed weapons activities. He further called on the Iraqi Government "not to waste the available chance and to take the initiative by cooperating proactively in the implementation of relevant Council resolutions". That would save Iraq, the region and its peoples from the scourge of war and the suffering that would follow. Any new war would have serious repercussions, not only on the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, but on the whole region.

CRISPIN GREY-JOHNSON (Gambia), speaking as Chairman of the African Group, reminded delegates of the lack of sophisticated security systems in Africa. In that regard, he expressed concern that mismanagement of the Iraq issue would lead to terrorist attacks on the continent, such as those that had occurred in Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam and Mombasa. In addition to security concerns, he said that a new war would harm the already weak economies of Africa. Citing the large Muslim population on his continent, he said that the common belief that an attack on Iraq was an attack on Islam could only worsen existing divisions.

Reiterating that Africa did not want war, he strongly urged Iraqi authorities to cooperate fully and unconditionally with the Security Council. In particular, he called upon them to release the several hundred Kuwaiti prisoners of war they were holding and return the Kuwaiti archives to their rightful home in Kuwait. Before concluding, he urged the Council to heed the many voices that were appealing for patience and continued inspections.

JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said he had hoped resolution 1441 would have been the final step in resolving the issue of disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. More than three months after adoption of the resolution, Iraq had failed to meet its obligations. On 7 December 2002, it had delivered a declaration that was patently incomplete. On 27 January, after some 60 days of inspections, neither UNMOVIC nor the IAEA were able to say that Iraq was actively cooperating. On 5 February, the United States Secretary of State had presented further evidence that Iraq was not only not cooperating, but that it was actively tried to subvert the process. His evidence was compelling. On 14 February, UNMOVIC and the IAEA reported that Iraq had been extending the range of its missile systems beyond proscribed limits.

He said it was patently clear that Iraq was in further material breach of its obligations. The question was what the Council was going to do about it. The Council could give Iraq more time, but would that make Iraq cooperate? he asked. In his country's view, the Council should not wait forever to confront the issue and move quickly to consider a further resolution that dealt decisively with Iraq's failure to comply with resolution 1441. Delays and divisions in the Council would only play into Iraq's hands. The Council must act decisively to ensure that, after 12 years, Iraq finally met its obligations.

UMIT PAMIR (Turkey) said his country had actively supported the wide-ranging quest for a peaceful solution to the crisis. The Istanbul Declaration, bearing the signatures of the regional countries, call on the Iraqi leadership to move irreversibly and sincerely towards assuming its responsibilities in restoring peace and stability in the region. At the same time, his Government had let the Iraqi authorities know directly of its "dire" assessment of the unfolding events, emphasizing that resolution 1441 (2002) could in no way be construed as anything other than an unambiguous signal. His Government's efforts were geared to strengthen, not to tone down, the substance of the message, namely, that those were the "last warnings", and that it was incumbent upon the Iraqi leadership to do everything in its power to help the inspectors in their work.

He said that yesterday's European Council Declaration was the latest significant initiative aimed at similar ends, as that reiterated the objective of Iraq's full and effective disarmament. Nevertheless, "Turkey is worried", he said. Along with the people of Iraq and other neighbouring countries, Turkey had felt the "raw impact" of instability. In 1991, for example, nearly 500,000 refugees entered Turkey in distress, while many old countries of Europe had been loathe to accept more than a mere 20 to 90 refugees. Throughout that decade, Turkey, for the first time in 1,000 years, had been unable to trade with its south, owing to the sanctions on Iraq. Today, talk of war was having a debilitating effect on its already fragile economy.

To those who said that Turkey had an agenda regarding Iraq, he would remind them of the Turkish proverb cautioning against those anglers who preferred murky waters. Turkey had no agenda other than reaffirming the territorial integrity and political unity of Iraq and its people. Thus, it was genuinely distressed at the escalation of the crisis, for which the Council should remain the focal point. Iraq must comply fully with its disarmament obligations, and Iraqi authorities should be keenly aware that time was of the essence. For Iraq, it was the moment of truth. Intense diplomatic efforts backed by a credible force posture still seemed to be the best way to achieve progress. After all, the "immediate, unconditional, and complete" disarmament of Iraq had remained a serious concern to international peace and security concern since 1991. In that context, Turkey attached utmost importance to the Council's unity and coherence.

LUIZ TUPY CALDAS DE MOURA (Brazil) said that the current situation and the risk of war was already being felt worldwide, through increased uncertainty, political divisions, and jittery markets. Armed conflict would have great human, political and economic costs. The large anti-war demonstrations held over the weekend in many countries, including in his own, showed that significant segments of opinion viewed such a course of action with uneasiness and doubt. Friday's presentations by the chief weapons inspectors provided informative and impartial appraisals of Iraq's implementation of resolution 1441 (2002). Their report showed the progress achieved so far, the difficulties involved, and the need for immediate, active and unconditional cooperation with UNMOVIC and the IAEA by the Iraqi authorities.

He said his country had consistently called for full compliance with the relevant resolutions, to ensure the complete elimination of all mass destruction and other proscribed weapons. It also supported further peaceful efforts within the context of the Organization towards achieving that goal. Resolution 1441 (2002) provided the framework, and its possibilities must be thoroughly explored. Those clearly involved full, active and unconditional cooperation by the Iraqi authorities with the inspectors, greater efficiency of the inspection regime, and the development of verification and monitoring mechanisms, such as those stipulated in resolution 1284 (1999). Suggestions had been put forward by Council members, notably France, Russia and Germany. He supported the goal of those initiatives, adding that a peaceful solution to that crisis was possible. Indeed, "we must insist on it", he said.

NGO DUC THANG (Viet Nam) stressed the need to exhaust all peaceful means to find a political solution to the Iraqi issue, in conformity with the United Nations Charter and international law. His country strongly believed that war was not inevitable, and there was still a chance for a peaceful solution of the issue, based on respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country. He also advocated a peaceful solution, instead of military action, because he understood the consequences of a war, especially in terms of untold human suffering and material destruction, as well as multifaceted impacts on the region and worldwide. Also of concern was the impact of war on the global economy.

The reports by Mr. Blix and Mr. Elbaradei on 14 February had clarified a number of issues, he said. The Government of Iraq had demonstrated a new willingness to cooperate with the inspectors in a number of areas, in particular, agreeing to aerial reconnaissance over its territory and allowing Iraqi scientists to be interviewed without witnesses. Moreover, both inspectors had said that there was no evidence indicating that Iraq had and was trying to hide weapons of mass destruction of prohibited chemical weapons. In that connection, he shared the views of a large number of other delegations that the inspections had made real progress, and had not been completed. Therefore, inspections must continue, and the inspectors should be trusted and provided with all possible assistance to carry out their work. At present, constructive dialogue between the parties and uninterrupted work of the inspectors were still an effective means of achieving a peaceful settlement.

OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru) said he endorsed the legal approach requiring Iraq to fully comply with all its obligations regarding its disarmament. International law also imposed on Iraq the obligation to cooperate with United Nations inspectors in an immediate, active and unconditional fashion. Unfortunately, there was still a manifest lack of cooperation. Conflicts and threats to international peace and security must be resolved pursuant to the principles and mechanisms established in the United Nations Charter. That meant that the use of force must be considered, as a last resort. But, it was also important to note that, in accordance with the Charter, it was a legitimate recourse in the maintenance of international peace and security.

He said the United Nations and the system of international security was facing a test. The crisis must be resolved within the framework of the United Nations, in particular, within the framework of Council decisions. As a matter of priority, all possibilities for a peaceful solution must be exhausted. That peaceful solution must, however, also hinge on the immediate disarmament of Iraq, as provided in resolution 1441 (2002), and he endorsed full implementation within an exacting time frame. Time must not be used to strip Council resolutions of all substance or useful effect, he said.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was a matter of serious concern not only for certain specific countries, but also for the entire international community. Those concerns were based on the fact that, in the past, Iraq had actually used chemical weapons and, over the course of the past 12 years, it had challenged the authority of the United Nations by continuing to disregard its obligations under numerous Security Council resolutions. In order to resolve the issue peacefully, Japan had been making its own diplomatic efforts, urging Iraq to proactively dispel every suspicion, to abide by all relevant Council resolutions and to abandon its weapons of mass destruction.

While resolution 1441 (2002) had affirmed that Iraq was in material breach of relevant resolutions, it also provided Iraq with a final opportunity to comply with its obligations, he said. Based on the deliberations of the Council to date, as well as the intelligence briefing by the United States Secretary of State, he could not but conclude that the declaration submitted by Iraq was neither complete, nor accurate, and that Iraq was not fully and proactively cooperating with the resumed inspections. To the best of his knowledge, only Iraq, and no other Member State, had expressed the view that it had been cooperating fully and proactively.

He went on to say that his country was aware of strong opposition to war around the world and shared the desire to resolve the issue peacefully. However, even if the inspections were to be continued and strengthened, they would hardly lead to the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction, unless Iraq fundamentally changed its attitude of cooperating only passively. It was crucial now that the international community remain united, and continue to put strong pressure on Iraq. If the Council failed to act in unity, it would not only damage the credibility of the United Nations, but also send the wrong message to Iraq. As Iraq was not cooperating and discharging its obligations fully, Japan considered it desirable for the Council to adopt a new resolution that would clearly demonstrate the determined attitude of the international community. Diplomatic efforts had been made for 12 long years; Iraq now had very limited time. He hoped the Council would be united and take effective action to fulfil its responsibilities for international peace and security.

DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said the first report of the inspectors had suggested that, while Iraq was cooperating on process, it had not cooperated sufficiently on substance. Last Friday's report suggested that Iraq had moved at least in part to accommodate some of the inspectors' requests, but it still had to answer serious questions about material related to weapons of mass destruction. He called upon Iraq to move rapidly to provide the information and cooperation requested of it, to avert the catastrophe that war would bring to its people. The Security Council must be able to authorize force as a last resort to uphold its resolution. His Government, however, did not believe that such a decision would be justified at this time.

The inspectors' reports strongly implied that their work was useful in pursuing the United Nations' objectives, as laid out in a series of resolutions. As long as that was so, they must continue. His Government had a very strong preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and placed considerable weight on the inspection and disarmament process. New Zealand did not support military action against Iraq without a mandate from the Security Council, and did not believe the Council would be justified in giving such a mandate at the current time. New Zealand would uphold the Council's decisions, but urged it to ensure that all available diplomatic means were used to pursue Iraq's disarmament.

YAHYA MAHMASSANI, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, said that, in their reports to the Council last Friday, both chief inspectors had indicated that the system of weapon inspections was working. Iraq was cooperating, and that made the continuation of the inspections vital and necessary, in order to come to final closure of the Iraqi file peacefully. In view of what the inspectors had presented to the Council, he was alarmed that the call to target Iraq continued. There was no material evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, despite intelligence information supplied by some countries. In that connection, he noted that the weapons inspectors were the sole legitimate body authorized to investigate and evaluate the evidence and forward it to the Council.

"Where is the immediate danger that Iraq poses to the world to warrant a war?" he asked. The questions remained: why was war necessary? Where was the eminent threat? The insistence on waging war at a time when inspections were progressing raised questions about whether the objective was to disarm Iraq, or if there were other schemes to force changes in the region.

All the countries in the region, with the exception of Israel, were appealing to the international community to prevent the war on Iraq, he said. The overwhelming majority of the world was against war on Iraq. Polls in the United Kingdom showed that 77 per cent of its population there were against the war, and in the United States, 59 per cent of the people wanted to give the inspectors more time to do their work. Millions of people from Sydney to New York had demonstrated against the war over the weekend. In fact, the threat to Arab countries and the Middle East region emanated from Israel's acquisition and production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and its continued occupation of the Arab territories. For many years, Israel stood in violation of numerous Security Council resolutions. Why condone Israel's possession of weapons of mass destruction while demanding disarmament of Iraq? Why was a double standard applied to those two countries?

In view of the threat of war in the region, Arab foreign ministers had issued a declaration on 16 February in Cairo, he said, asserting the commitment of the Arab States to the security and territorial integrity of Iraq and Kuwait and rejecting the threat or the use of force against them, or any Arab country. They also rejected the plans and schemes to bring about changes in the region and interference in its affairs. The choice of war was a manifestation of the failure of the Council, and the collapse of the present world order. It also represented a threat to the United Nations Charter. For the sake of peace in the Arab region and peace in the world, he called on the Council to reject war and continue weapons inspections, allowing them adequate time to complete their task.

VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the position of Ukraine was well known and clear -- - Iraq must fulfil all its obligations under respective United Nations Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1441 (2002). It was imperative that the United Nations inspectors continue their work to be able to clarify the unresolved questions concerning Iraq's disarmament. Ukraine considered the inspection and monitoring mechanisms to be the best way to detect, destroy and verify the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. However, those inspections could be effective only with full cooperation in good faith, on the part of Iraq.

He, therefore, called upon the Iraqi authorities to translate concretely and urgently their declared commitments into active cooperation and collaboration with the inspection process. His position was unequivocally aimed at achieving the disarmament of Iraq in the most effective way possible, while ensuring at all times that the goal was achieved at the lowest cost in terms of human suffering. He believed that the option of political and diplomatic solutions to the question of Iraq had not been fully exhausted. In conclusion, he said that war was the last and worst resort, and "was always the sanction of failure".

FAUD MUBARAK AL HINAI (Oman) said he had studied with interest the reports of the inspections chiefs and he was convinced that significant results had truly been achieved. Those were in line with resolution 1441 (2002), on the one hand, and also in accordance, to a great extent, with the demands of the chief inspector, who had recently asked the Iraqi Government to adopt three measures, namely: to allow for unconditional aerial surveillance; to allow for private interviews with Iraqi scientists; and to adopt and enact legislation banning mass destruction weapons. Those measures had recently been accomplished and should serve to dispel substantive issues. Such positive cooperation, which was continuing, would lead to a settlement of pending issues.

He said he understood the intents and real concerns of the United States and the United Kingdom regarding the dangers of the use of mass destruction weapons on world security and stability. He welcomed the positions of Council members, in particular, the permanent members, for they had demonstrated a great sense of responsibility during the study of the issues. As crucial partners in the Middle East, the United States and the United Kingdom must work to avoid war in that region -- a war in which the consequences would be tragic, not only for Iraq, but for the region and the entire world. He hoped all Council members would take positions designed to disarm Iraq through peaceful means, and allow the inspectors to continue their work. Indeed, efforts should be pooled to facilitate inspections, which had shown their effectiveness.

ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI (Yemen) said the situation in Iraq was of concern to all and solution must be based on an international consensus. The decision to be taken by the Council would have huge repercussions on the future of the United Nations. Like all countries in the region, he was concerned about the massing of troops, the media war and the constant threat of war against Iraq. His Government welcomed the cooperation extended by Iraq to the inspection teams. It was also important that Iraq would honour its commitments regarding the question of the remaining missing Kuwaitis.

He reiterated his support for Council resolutions, in particular, those pertaining to Iraq, but there should not be selectivity or double standards. Resolution 687 (1991), including its provision for elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the region, including those of Israel, must be implemented. Those resolutions concerning Israel must be implemented with the same zeal as those concerning Iraq. The inspectors should have the necessary time to fulfil their mandate. War would constitute resort to an approach that would take international relations back to a policy of force.

ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, said the European Union recognized that the primary responsibility for dealing with Iraqi disarmament lay with the Council. The Union's objective for Iraq remained full and effective disarmament from weapons of mass destruction. It was clear that the people of Europe wanted to achieve that objective peacefully. War was not inevitable. Force should be used as a last resort. It was for the Iraqi regime to end that crisis by complying with the demands of the Council.

He said the inspectors must be given the time and resources that the Council believed they needed. However, inspections could not continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi cooperation. "Baghdad should have no illusions", he said. "It must disarm and cooperate immediately and fully." Iraq had a final opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully. He recognized that the unity and firmness of the international community and the military build-up had been essential in obtaining the return of the inspectors. Those factors would remain essential, if full cooperation was to be achieved.

In a regional context, he said the Union reiterated its firm belief in the need to invigorate the peace process in the Middle East and to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He continued to support early implementation of the "road map" endorsed by the Quartet. Terror and violence must end. So must settlement activity. The unity of the international community was vital in dealing with those problems, he said.

ARNOLDO M. LISTRE (Argentina) said that Iraq must be compelled to comply fully with its disarmament obligations. The Iraqi regime must understand, once and for all, that the international community would not accept any alternative and that the Council was united in its objective, even though there might be some differences concerning the method and the timing for achieving that goal.

On 8 November, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, the Council had unanimously adopted resolution 1441 (2002), giving Iraq one last opportunity, he said. The Council must exercise constant pressure on that stubbornly reluctant Government to comply with what the international community had been demanding for the last 12 years. The international community had been very patient, and it could not accept a repetition of the history of concealment and deceit that had taken place between 1991 and 1998. Otherwise, not only would the credibility of the Council be affected, but a heavy blow would be inflicted on the countries combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

As for how to achieve that objective, he said that the inspections that had resumed last November had yielded results and must continue. In order for the inspections to produce full results, the Iraqi Government must abandon its reluctant attitude and give its full and proactive cooperation required by resolution 1441. Iraq also had to comply with the obligations imposed under resolution 687 (1991), facilitating the return of Kuwaiti property and repatriation of Kuwaiti and third-country nationals. Before going to war, however, all peaceful alternatives must be explored and exhausted. After that, if the Iraqi regime persisted in its attitude, the "serious consequences" established in resolution 1441 must take place. Those serious consequences must avoid bombarding open cities. The lives of men, women and children, who for years had been suffering from deprivation and anxiety for their future, must be preserved.

ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said the convening of today's public meeting showed the importance the international community attached to the present decisive turning point. The enormous challenges required that the international community engage in dialogue and avoid a war with endless repercussions. There was a vital need to base decisions on the principles of the United Nations Charter, which provided guarantees to ensure that force was used only as a last resort. The inspectors' reports had convinced him that the continuation and strengthening of the inspections could achieve the objectives outlined in 1441 (2002).

He said that Iraq was continuing to fully cooperate with the United Nations inspectors in solving the crisis peacefully, thereby paving the way for the lifting of sanctions. Indeed, Iraq had undertaken strong and encouraging measures. He shared the views of several delegations that options other than war must be found. He saw no justification in adopting an additional resolution, and asked that the inspections be given the necessary time for their mission. "Let us reject violence and destruction and build a world in which a culture of peace will reign", he said, adding that the children of Iraq should not become orphaned. "Give peace a chance", he urged.

Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), EARL S. HUNTLEY (Saint Lucia) transmitted to the Council the statement on Iraq by the heads of the Community, which they had issued at the end of their meeting in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 14-15 February. In that document, they expressed their profound concern at the escalation of global tensions and said that they were deeply troubled over the humanitarian tragedy that an outbreak of war would bring about. They emphasized that no State should have the right to foster the development of weapons of mass destruction in any form and recalled that the Council had compelled Iraq to cease the development of such weapons. They appealed to Iraq to cooperate fully with all the requirements of UNMOVIC and the IAEA inspectors and fulfil its commitment to the United Nations and the international community.

Also by the statement, they expressed total support of the position taken by the United Nations Secretary-General that "this is an issue not for any one State alone, but for the international community as a whole". In that connection, they stressed that any unilateral action taken outside of a Security Council mandate would undermine the integrity of the United Nations and considerably weaken the multilateral system and its machinery for preserving peace and security. They were firmly opposed to the use of armed force at a time when it was clear that diplomatic efforts had not been exhausted, and the inspectors were reporting some progress and requesting more time to complete their work.

The CARICOM urged the Government of the United States and its military allies to exercise restraint in their approach to that complex international crisis, he continued. It expressed its particular anxiety at the consequences a war would have not only for the Middle East region, but for the entire world, and the disproportionate burden that would be borne by small developing States, including those of the Caribbean. Those States were ill-prepared to cope with the impact of a global recession provoked by volatile oil prices, severe damage to their vital tourism and financial services sectors, and falling levels of investment. The heads of government of CARICOM were committed to international efforts to combat terrorism, but they also remained convinced that diplomacy and dialogue presented the most enlightened approach to building understanding and resolving conflicts.

ALEG IVANOU (Belarus) said his country was convinced that practical possibilities were available for the disarmament of Iraq with peaceful means. He favoured a further continuation and stepping up of the inspection regime and called on Iraq to fully cooperate. Any ultimatum or limiting of the time frame for inspections was counter-productive, he said.

He opposed the use of unilateral force against Iraq in violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Solution of the Iraqi question could only be found in the context of Council decisions. An integral element towards a solution was a stage-by-stage lifting of sanctions against Iraq, he said.

V.K. NAMBIAR (India) said that, as many had understood it from the inspectors' briefing of 14 February, Iraq had been cooperating on process, but had not done much on substance. While there was a widespread feeling that inspections had to be given a chance, there was also a feeling that the Council could not be expected to wait "indefinitely" to secure immediate, active and unconditional cooperation. Recent deliberations in the Council over how to deal with the Iraq issue had reflected serious differences in approach. The Council now needed to move forward with unity of purpose. India had consistently stood for a peaceful resolution of the issue. It had also maintained the primacy of the multilateral route in addressing it.

He said his country was also concerned about the difficult humanitarian situation in Iraq. The Iraqi people had suffered severe shortages and privations for more than a decade, with 60 per cent currently relying on the United Nations' "oil-for-food" programme. That programme could be jeopardized by military action in Iraq, leading to a humanitarian situation that could render as many as 10 million people dependent on the outside world for food assistance. India was also vitally interested in the peace and prosperity of the Gulf region, to which it had profound political, cultural, economic and religious ties for centuries.

Before the Council made a final determination on the question of war or peace, he urged it to seriously consider the numerous complex ramifications. Those included such issues as the dangers posed by the development of mass destruction weapons and the risks of their diversion to non-State actors, the credibility of enforcement under Chapter VII of the Charter, and the question of compliance. Those also included the rationale and effectiveness of weapons inspections and the continuing pressure of sanctions. Apart from the immediate consequences of military action in the already volatile region, the Council should also take into account the impact of the possible break-up of the concerned State on neighbouring States and its larger implications for regional peace and security, as well as the dangers of the radicalization of public opinion worldwide.

* The 4708th meeting was closed.