The Swedish Government's view on the Iraq issue

Report
from Government of Sweden
Published on 20 Mar 2003
MINISTRY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Swedish Government deeply regrets that war has now broken out. The United States and its allies are attacking Iraq without a UN mandate and are therefore acting in breach of international law and threatening the lives of thousands of people. Every conceivable effort must be made to protect the civilian population. The rules of humanitarian law must be observed. This is the responsibility of both sides in the war.

The Swedish Government does not share the US-held opinion that the use of military force is in line with international law. In our opinion, the US cannot have recourse to Security Council resolutions adopted in the early 1990s which authorised the use of force in response to a situation which differs from the one we are facing today. Nor does resolution 1441 provide a mandate for the use of force.

In the view of the Swedish Government, Iraq - having waged two wars against its neighbours, used weapons of mass destruction and attacked other countries in the region - constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of this regime therefore entail a threat of this nature, which the UN has made clear ever since the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The Swedish Government has been able to accept the prospect of military action against Iraq as a last resort in the event of a refusal by Iraq to cooperate with the United Nations Security Council in accordance with resolution 1441, and Iraq's continued development or possession of weapons of mass destruction. However, it is only the UN Security Council that has the right to evaluate the actions of Iraq and to decide on the use of force, not any individual state.

Swedish military forces will not take part in a military operation which we consider to be in breach of international law.

Even if military action is now being taken without a UN mandate, the United Nations still has a central role to play, not only in humanitarian support but also in a post-war Iraq. Management of the conflict must be referred back to the UN and the Security Council. Even if the US is resorting to military force the Security Council will continue to bear the ultimate responsibility for international peace and security.

Sweden is closely monitoring the humanitarian situation in Iraq and is prepared to cooperate with the UN, the EU and other international actors on short notice to offer extra support to humanitarian efforts and to refugees in the region if the need arises. Sweden is one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq, contributing some SEK 50 million per year.

Any armed attack, with or without a UN mandate, always raises the question of whether international law requires Sweden to stop exporting military equipment. It goes without saying that these legal considerations are important, but they must be weighed against the importance we attach to far-reaching international cooperation in the defence industry in order to safeguard our own future supply of military equipment. In weighing up the different guidelines for the export of military equipment, the interests of the nation must take precedence. Ultimately, the most important consideration must be to safeguard Sweden's long-term security. A long-term approach to assuring supply is of vital interest to Sweden's security policy.