UK proposes 17 March deadline for Iraq to comply with UN disarmament demands

The United Kingdom, along with Spain and the United States, today introduced a revised draft of a resolution that presents Iraq with a 17 March deadline to cooperate fully with Security Council demands that it rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.
According to the draft, which was announced by UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw during the Council's ministerial-level meeting on Iraq, the Council would decide that Iraq will have "failed to take the final opportunity afforded by resolution 1441" unless it concludes that Baghdad has demonstrated "full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation" in accordance with its disarmament obligations.

The text also calls for Iraq to yield possession to the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of "all weapons, weapon delivery and support systems and structures," prohibited by previous Council resolutions, and all information regarding prior destruction of such items.

In his address to the Council meeting, during which the 15-nation body heard reports by UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix and IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei, Mr. Straw said it defied all experience that to continue inspections with no end date or method of containment, as suggested by France, Germany and the Russian Federation, would achieve complete disarmament unless Iraq's full and active cooperation was immediately forthcoming.

To find a peaceful solution to the current crisis, the Council must not retreat from the demands it had set out clearly in resolution 1441, Mr. Straw stressed. "What we need is an irreversible and strategic decision by Iraq to disarm - a strategic decision by Iraq to yield to the inspectors all of its weapons of mass destruction and all relevant information which it could, and should, have provided at any time in the last 12 years," he said.

Mr. Straw credited the "strong outside pressure" exerted on the Iraqi regime for the recent progress and activity reported by the UN inspectors. "The paradox we face is that the only way we are going to achieve disarmament by peace of a rogue regime - which all of us know has been in defiance of this Council for the past 12 years - the only way we can achieve their disarmament of their weapons of mass destruction, which this Council has said poses a threat to international peace and security, is by backing our diplomacy with a credible threat of force," he said.

Recalling that the Council stepped up to its responsibilities last November, when it unanimously adopted resolution 1441, US Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the Council against finding itself this November with the pressure removed and with Iraq once again "marching down the merry path to weapons of mass destruction, threatening the region, threatening the world." He said that if the Council failed to meets its responsibilities, then its credibility and its ability to deal with all the critical challenges facing it will suffer.

"Now is the time for the Council to send a clear message to Saddam that we have not been taken in by his transparent tactics," Mr. Powell said. "Nobody wants war, but it is clear that the limited progress we have seen, the process changes we have seen, the slight, substantive changes we have seen, come from the presence of a large military force - nations who are willing to put their young men and women in harm's way in order to rid the world of these dangerous weapons.

"It doesn't come simply from resolutions. It doesn't come simply fro inspections. It comes from the will of this Council, the unified political will of this Council and the willingness to use force, if it comes to that, to make sure that we achieve the disarmament of Iraq."

Foreign Minister Ana Palacio of Spain said Iraq's grudging and incremental moves towards disarmament appeared to be distracting the Council from the commitment it made 12 years ago to ensure that the Iraqi regime was effectively disarmed. "We have been marking time for 12 years," she said, stressing that during that period, the Council had not moved to uphold its duties while the Iraqi leadership continued its deceptions. "What message were we sending to the world?"

Ms. Palacio said only maximum pressure or a credible threat of force made any type of impression on the Iraqi regime, which was the underlying logic of resolution 1441 and of the draft resolution sponsored by the three nations. "This Council has to give a clear message that the time has come to stop playing hostage to those who, in seeking their own ends, mistakenly interpret our aspiration to peace as sign of weakness," she said. "The Council must make it clear that it has always advocated not containing Iraq, but for Iraq to disarm, to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, and that this must be done peacefully, for which full Iraqi collaboration is indispensable. And if it is lacking, Iraq alone will be responsible for the consequences."