Speaking at the outset of the debate on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Permanent Representative of South Africa, Dumisani Kumalo, said the 115 Member States and 15 Observer States of the United Nations who belonged to NAM had requested the meeting because the Council was engaged in a crucial debate that had important repercussions for the entire international community.
"To us, [Security Council] resolution 1441 was - and still is - about ensuring that Iraq is peacefully disarmed," Ambassador Kumalo said.
Recalling the update last Friday by the UN's lead inspectors, Ambassador Kumalo stressed that inspections were continuing apace and the inspectors themselves were receiving renewed cooperation from the Iraqi Government. None of the information presented during last week's or previous reports would justify the Council's abandoning of the inspections process and resort to war, he added.
"Resorting to war without fully exhausting all other options represents an admission of failure by the Security Council in carrying out its mandate of maintaining international peace and security," Ambassador Kumalo said, urging the 15-nation body to redouble its efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to the situation.
Continuing the discussion, Ambassador Mohammed A. Aldouri of Iraq said his country's record of compliance with Security Council resolutions is "unprecedented in this international organization or in the history of international relations." Iraq's active cooperation since agreeing last October to the return of UN inspectors had resulted in the refutation of all allegations from the United States and Britain, he added.
"Reason and wisdom make it incumbent upon us to ask if there is any justification for the United States and Britain to launch war against Iraq under the pretext of their concern about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, even at a time when Iraq is under an ongoing monitoring and verification system," Ambassador Aldouri said.
He called on all Member States to shoulder their responsibilities under the UN Charter to put an end to the unjust embargo, eliminate the unilaterally imposed no-flight zones and heed the call for peace of the millions of people around the world expressed over the weekend.