21 February 2003

Security Council Hears Over 60 Speakers in Two-Day Debate on Iraq's Disarmament; Many Say Use of Force Should Be Last Resort, Others Urge Swift Action

NEW YORK, 19 February (UN Headquarters) -- As the Security Council today concluded its debate among non-members on Iraq's disarmament, many speakers urged the Council to exhaust all peaceful means before resorting to war, while others insisted that it be prepared to act swiftly and resolutely in the face of Iraq's non-compliance.

The debate, which heard from more than 60 speakers, in two days, was called for by the Non-Aligned Movement and held in the wake of last Friday's briefing by 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. They 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, requiring Iraq's "immediate, unconditional and active" cooperation.

Echoing several calls for strengthened inspections made yesterday by delegates from the Middle East, the representative of Egypt today stressed that Iraq's compliance and continued cooperation with the inspectors was a "way out of the dark tunnel". The danger of mass destruction weapons, however, was not confined to Iraq. Council members must keep in mind that its credibility would not be served by eliminating the banned Iraqi weapons, while failing to apply the same criteria to all other cases, including those in the Middle East.

Libya's representative added that some were hasty in their rush to war, and their intent was to create a pretext for war without concrete evidence. That raised serious questions regarding the "invisible agenda" of a war against Iraq and its subsequent occupation. The Council was calling for the disarmament of Iraq of all banned weapons, but it was turning a blind eye to resolutions concerning Israel. That country was not subjecting its nuclear facilities to the IAEA safeguards regime, although it possessed an arsenal of nuclear arms.

Although the world seemed perched on the thin edge of war, said the Indonesian representative, the situation was not hopeless and the objectives of resolution 1441 (2002) could still be met. Resolution 1441 was a finely structured text, which defined the disarmament scenario before Iraq and clearly outlined the consequences for default or violations. In formulating the next step, it was only right that the inspectors and the results of the inspections be taken into account. To authorize war without doing so would amount to "preconceived warfare" and seriously undermine the Council.

The representative of Norway agreed that time had not run out and the use of force was not unavoidable, but more inspectors or better equipment could not, by themselves, resolve the outstanding issues. As Dr. Blix had said last Friday, the period of disarmament through inspections could be "short" if Iraq chose to cooperate fully, as required. It was a challenge to the Council and an affront to the international community that Iraq was withholding full cooperation.

Similarly, the representative of Canada said that more time for inspections could be useful, but only if Iraq decided to cooperate fully and transparently, starting now. While that cooperation was beginning, it was being offered grudgingly and only after intense pressure and the deliberate build-up of military forces in the region. To make clear to Iraq what was expected, the Council must lay out a list of key remaining disarmament tasks and establish an early deadline for compliance. That would allow the international community to judge whether Iraq was cooperating on substance, and not just on process.

Iraq's representative, taking the floor as he did yesterday at the end of the day's debate, thanked the delegations that had shown such concern for the Iraqi crisis, especially the vast majority who had advocated peace and opposition to war. He called upon those States who had favoured the "extreme positions" of the United States and the United Kingdom to carefully consider the issue and not move hastily towards war. What was wanted from Iraq was not to hand over weapons of mass destruction, but hand over evidence that it was free of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq had opened all doors. It was up to the inspectors to work in a measured way, apart from the pressures being applied.

Also speaking in today's debate were the representatives of Qatar, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, Nigeria, Ecuador, Thailand, Liechtenstein, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Singapore, Fiji, Nicaragua, Albania, Uzbekistan, Marshall Islands, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Mauritius, Paraguay, Iceland, Georgia, Lebanon, Serbia and Montenegro, Latvia and Zimbabwe. The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also spoke.

The meeting was called to order at 10:05 a.m. and adjourned at 1:28 p.m.


NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) said he was concerned about the dire unknown consequences in his region caused by the current Iraq crisis. His country continued to support all efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the crisis and to accept a formula that would save the Iraqi people. Any new war would create a new catastrophe for Iraq and its immediate neighbours, and might lead to a series of changes in geopolitical conditions. Under the clouds of war, his country, as chair of the ninth Islamic Summit, had called for an extraordinary summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

He noted from the debate on Friday that the international community, as represented in the Council, was still divided in opinion, but that there was an overwhelming demand to give inspections more time. He called on Iraq to implement fully Council resolutions, as well as resolutions adopted by the Arab Summit in March 2002. He also called on Iraq to resolve pending questions with Kuwait. The work of the Council must be transparent and avoid selectivity. Council resolutions must also be implemented by Israel. The international community should subject the Israeli nuclear arsenal to the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that resolution 1441 (2002) had been implemented satisfactorily. In turn, two briefings by the chief inspectors had described success in a very short period of time, and further success was promised in the upcoming period. Iraq's compliance with resolution 1441 and other Council resolutions would lead the way out of a dark tunnel, which was now threatening to be transformed into a deep abyss. The danger of weapons of mass destruction, however, was not confined to Iraq. All tasks undertaken to disarm Iraq were steps towards ridding the Middle East of those weapons. The credibility of international legality was not served by eliminating the proscribed Iraqi weapons, while failing to apply the same criteria to all other cases.

Disarming Iraq, he continued, must be the beginning of removing the danger of all mass destruction weapons from the Middle East. That would affirm the Council's credibility among the peoples of that region. The Council should assume its responsibility for maintaining international peace and security; everyone must affirm the choice of peace and commit to collective political action towards its achievement. Resolution 1441 was the way forward. The inspection process must be supported and continue, without interruption or rigid deadlines, as long as it was achieving a positive outcome. The repercussions of armed conflict for the Middle East and the whole world made it imperative to work with diligence, patience and determination towards a peaceful settlement.

BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica) said that his country had repeatedly demanded that Iraq comply with relevant Council resolutions. At this point, the peaceful disarmament of Iraq would improve the situation in that region and improve the fate of the Iraqi people.

He demanded full, immediate and proactive cooperation from Iraq with the United Nations inspectors. That country should also provide proof of the complete destruction of all its weapons. He was heartened by the inspectors' report regarding Iraq's growing cooperation this week. Since 27 November, when inspections resumed, tangible results had been achieved. It was necessary to fully trust and support the inspectors and give them time to carry out their tasks. The inspectors themselves should determine if the course of inspections had been exhausted. The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) should be provided with additional assistance and resources in order to enhance its effectiveness.

He added that all States should provide the inspectors with intelligence information in their possession. It was essential to achieve peaceful disarmament. He called on Member States to explore all the alternatives before resorting to the use of force. While the Iraqi regime did not deserve another chance, the Iraqi people certainly did.

PIERRE HELG (Switzerland) said he did not think the moment for the use of force had come. His country was fully aware of the dangers inherent in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and did not underestimate the risk that such weapons could fall into the hands of international terrorists. It was, however, deeply concerned about the prevailing situation in the region and dreaded the consequences for the civilian population of a military operation. Switzerland had held a humanitarian meeting in Geneva concerning the fate of the civilian population affected by the impending crisis in Iraq, in which 30 countries and 20 humanitarian organizations had participated.

He said participants in the meeting had acknowledged that an armed conflict in the region would very probably have grave consequences for the local civilian populations of Iraq and neighbouring countries. Against that background, the resort to force could only be envisaged after all peaceful means to find a solution to the crisis had been exhausted. The inspection regime could be strengthened. He also advocated giving the inspectors additional means to pursue their task with efficiency and speed. In any case, the use of force must be authorized by a Council resolution. He appealed to the Iraqi Government to act in the true interest of its country.

SUN JOUN-YUNG (Republic of Korea) said the Security Council's current and future discussions in pursuit of the common goal of disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction would have far-reaching implications both for the future of the United Nations and for the peace and stability of the world. While Iraq's cooperation on process had so far been without problems, its cooperation on substance had not been enough to resolve existing questions of disarmament.

Reaffirming Korea's support for all Security Council resolutions on Iraq, including resolution 1441 (2002), he said it was disturbing that many banned weapons and items still remained unaccounted for by Iraq and that Baghdad had been importing large quantities of missile engines for use in a banned missile system, in contravention of resolution 687 (1991). Judging from the findings as reported last Friday by UNMOVIC and the IAEA, it was clear Iraq had not yet fully complied with the relevant resolutions, including resolution 1441.

Given Iraq's track record of failure to comply with 17 Security Council resolutions over the past 12 years, it was incumbent on that country to meet the two key tests of resolution 1441: a full, accurate and complete declaration; and full, voluntary, unconditional and active cooperation with UNMOVIC and the IAEA. If Baghdad failed in those critical tests, it would be held responsible for the consequences. He urged Iraq to cooperate fully for complete and verifiable disarmament and thus spare the Iraqi people the "untold suffering" that would result from non-compliance. He reaffirmed his country's commitment to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, saying proliferation of those weapons constituted a threat to international peace and security.

DARMANSJAH DJUMALA (Indonesia) said that the current situation, where the world seemed perched on the thin edge of war, was not hopeless and the objectives of resolution 1441 (2002) could still be met. There was nothing in the reports of UNMOVIC and the IAEA concluding that Iraq was, or was not, in violation of resolution 1441. Both reports had made clear, however, that the work of inspections was continuing according to plan and enjoying cooperation provided by Iraq. At present, that was as much as could be expected. Resolution 1441 was a finely structured text, which provided the disarmament scenario for Iraq and clearly outlined the consequences for default or violations.

He said it was only right that, in formulating the next step, the inspectors and the results of their inspections must be taken into account. To authorize war without fulfilling that condition would amount to "preconceived warfare" and seriously undermine the Council's credibility. The problem might be the pace of inspections. Strengthening the inspections regime must be undertaken as a matter of urgency, including hastening the pace of the inspections. What was required, then, was the allocation of broader resources of time, manpower and equipment, in line with 1441. He acknowledged the cooperation provided so far by the Iraqi Government and hoped that would be extended fully and unwaveringly. Diplomacy had not been exhausted and war was not imminent. It was time to close ranks in the Security Council.

ZAINUDDIN YAHYA (Malaysia) favoured the continuation of inspections, as advocated by most Council members and other speakers in the debate. He supported the proposal by France on the need to increase the human and technical capacities of the inspection teams in accordance with resolution 1441, as well as their intention to request another meeting at the ministerial level on 14 March to appraise the situation and progress made.

At the same time, the disarmament efforts must be a part of a clear, sanctions-lifting plan, he continued, so that the debilitating humanitarian crisis in Iraq could be brought to an immediate end. The success of the current exercise required the fullest cooperation by the Government of Iraq in every respect, and he welcomed their recent decision to issue a presidential decree containing prohibitions on importation and production of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, as well as their acceptance of reconnaissance flights. Iraq must continue to cooperate with the inspectors and refrain from giving any pretext to warmongers.

Malaysia, like many peace-loving nations, strongly opposed the use of force against Iraq, he said. The crisis could be solved through peaceful means, and the Council must continue to encourage diplomacy to resolve the problem through effective inspections and weapon destruction, as envisaged in resolution 1441. The use of force was more likely to undermine, than maintain or restore, international peace and security. A war on Iraq would have catastrophic consequences on that country's population. Also, there was no precedent in international law for the use of force as a preventive measure, when there had been no actual or imminent attack by the offending State. Massive anti-war rallies over the last few days represented clear testimony that the international community did not wish to support military action against Iraq. Many believed that there was still an alternative to war, and the use of force could only be a last resort.

FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said that all reports on the situation bolstered the need for a peaceful solution and for more time for the inspectors. Whatever the reason for war, its results would be disastrous at all levels. By intensifying inspections and continuing political efforts -- while stressing the need for Iraqi cooperation with inspectors, and the need to resolve the issue of missing Kuwaitis and other prisoners and war and returning Kuwaiti property -- war could be avoided. The Council could not take lightly international objections to war and must urgently seek a peaceful solution.

He called for a solution to the Iraqi issue through the implementation of Council resolutions, while maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq. Even if all available options were exhausted, the extent of military action must be limited. Its intention must not be to punish the Iraqi people. He supported all efforts to destroy weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or in any other State. Israel, the only country in the Middle East with nuclear and prohibited weapons, had refused to subject itself to international oversight. The application of double standards was one of the reasons for violence and extremism in that region.

FELIPE H. PAOLILLO (Uruguay) said the Security Council had sent clear signals to Saddam Hussein's regime that the time for patience and tolerance had run out. The situation was now in another phase and if Iraq wished to avoid being the subject of a grave use of force, it must prove that it did not have banned weapons, or it must destroy them under the auspices of the United Nations. Before recourse to extreme measures of force and the resulting bloody costs of war, however, the international community must exhaust all remaining peaceful paths. Last week, the chief weapons inspectors had informed the Council that the inspections, which had resumed only 11 weeks ago, had already yielded positive results.

He said the inspectors should be given more time to complete their extremely complex task. It was well known that Iraq, for 12 years, had been engaging in deceit and scoffing at the efforts of the international community. That could not be allowed to continue. Neither could the situation be "written off" without awaiting the results of the international action now under way. Doing so would have grave and irreversible consequences. War caused death and destruction, which was exactly what the international community sought to prevent by disarming Iraq. The inspections should be continued, expanded and strengthened decisively, so as to extricate Iraq from the position in which it had placed itself.

NDEKHEDEHE EFFIONG NDEKHEDEHE (Nigeria) said that in its painstaking efforts to find a peaceful solution to the issue of disarming Iraq, the Council had come up with a robust inspection regime encapsulated in resolution 1441 (2002). The collective will of the peace-loving Member States of the United Nations had been expressed through the collective wisdom of the Security Council in that unanimous resolution. For that reason, Nigeria had implicit hope in the ability of the Security Council to resolve, amicably, the Iraqi and any other situation that might pose a threat to international peace and security.

From all accounts, the inspection teams had been doing wonderful work within a relatively short period of time, he said. Accordingly, Nigeria believed that the inspectors in Iraq must be given time to maximize their efforts and reach the optimum level of their goal. Resolution 1441 was aimed expressly and unequivocally at disarming Iraq peacefully of all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. There was, therefore, a need to exercise patience with tenacity, as patience was a key ingredient for peace. He urged all concerned to make sustained efforts to avoid the use of force, while ensuring the effective implementation of resolution 1441.

AHMED A. OWN (Libya) said that a war against Iraq would have dire consequences for the Iraqi people, who had already suffered for a long time. It would also have a negative impact on the whole region. His country opposed the use of force in Iraq, as that country was now complying with the inspections and implementing resolution 1441. No proof of the presence or development of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been provided to the Council. The inspection process must run its full course, especially as inspections were running smoothly and effectively. It was the wish of the international community, as demonstrated by the debate in the Council and massive demonstrations all over the world.

The haste of some countries to remove weapons of mass destruction by force, without any concrete evidence, raised serious questions in the minds of prudent and fair-minded people regarding the existence of a hidden agenda, he continued. While insisting on the implementation of resolutions against Iraq, the Council was turning a blind eye to the non-compliance of Israel. That country was not subjecting its nuclear facilities to the IAEA inspections. Its practices in the occupied territories included random killing of women, children and the elderly, destruction of homes and implementation of the policy of starvation against the Palestinian people. All that took place in the absence of action by the international community. The sense of injustice and double standards in the Middle East would lead to continued instability and jeopardize security all over the world.

The international community must take seriously its responsibility in extinguishing hotbeds of tension, including in the Middle East, he said. He hoped a sense of wisdom would prevail. Given sufficient time, the inspections could achieve the goal of disarming Iraq and bringing an end to the suffering of the Iraqi people. The Middle East should become a nuclear-free zone, and all resolutions should be implemented, including those regarding Israel. The region should be saved from a war that would claim the lives of many innocent people. All peaceful means should be exhausted before resorting to war.

FERNANDO YÉPEZ LASSO (Ecuador) said his country was a peaceful country, basing its foreign policy on strict compliance with international law. It, therefore, defended conflict solution by peaceful means. It had always supported the jurisdiction of the Council over the maintenance of international peace and security. He, therefore, urged the Government of Iraq to extend its full cooperation in the effective implementation of resolution 1441 (2002). In that regard, the inspectors of the United Nations must continue their efforts until the process of a peaceful, transparent and verifiable disarmament of Iraq had been completed.

He said the situation in Iraq must be handled in conformity with the norms of international law, particularly those contained in Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. Only the Council, if circumstances warranted, could determine whether or not there were grounds for the use of force, through an explicit resolution outlining the conditions for such use. He warned that the international legal order established after the Second World War was being tested.

CHUCHAI KASEMSARN (Thailand) said he remained hopeful that the centrality of the United Nations in the search for a peaceful solution would continue as events unfolded. He renewed his plea to Iraq to immediately and unconditionally provide complete and proactive cooperation to UNMOVIC and the IAEA. Iraq must demonstrate to the world that it was faithfully and completely fulfilling its international obligations under resolution 1441 (2002). Military conflict would have far-reaching consequences. The inevitable disruptions to the global economy would adversely affect the efforts of many nations to recover from financial crises and the recession.

Of equal importance, he said, was the impact of military action on the Iraqi people. The Secretary-General's recent initiative to promote discussion with the Council on contingency planning to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people in the event of armed conflict correctly brought into focus the devastating humanitarian and economic consequences of war. Under any scenario, innocent people of Iraq would be among the first to suffer following an outbreak of armed conflict. It was incumbent upon Iraq, therefore, to be completely forthcoming with the United Nations inspectors, in order to avoid the even greater suffering of its people. The Council should take into account the concerns expressed by the wider United Nations membership and the calls to take the road of peace, by pressing forward on peaceful disarmament and resolving all outstanding issues.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said the Charter imposed an obligation on the Council to exhaust all non-violent means of conflict resolution before authorizing the use of force. All resolutions of the Council were legally binding, and non-implementation in all cases undermined the role of the Organization. He shared the view with others that the use of force would need to be authorized by the Council in a separate resolution and that the reports submitted by UNMOVIC and the IAEA did not lead to the conclusion that such a decision was now warranted.

He said the Council must not limit itself to the sole question whether or not it face a situation of material breach in the terms of resolution 1441. It also had an obligation to consider the consequences of an armed intervention, which would be immense regarding the humanitarian situation, as well as the role of the organization in a post-conflict scenario. As the Council had been briefed last week on the humanitarian implications of an armed intervention, he hoped for a concrete humanitarian assessment, as well as an outline of the role the Organization was meant to play in a situation where an armed intervention had taken place.

SRGJAN KERIM (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that the debate in the Council and elsewhere did not signify disagreement on the purpose of full and unconditional compliance with resolution 1441, including the clause under which Iraq would face serious consequences if it continued violating its obligations. Although the chief inspectors had noted some progress, the prevailing attitude of the Iraqi regime of delaying and obstructing the inspections in substance had revealed an intention not to cooperate fully. It was not progress that the Council had asked for, but Iraq's full and unconditional compliance with resolution 1441.

In addition to that, on 5 February, the United States had presented compelling evidence to the Council, detailing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, its active efforts to deceive United Nations inspectors and its links to international terrorism. The international community must stand together to face the threat posed by the nexus of terrorism and dictators with weapons of mass destruction. His country had supported international efforts to achieve peaceful disarmament of Iraq, but now it had become clear that Iraq was in material breach of relevant resolutions, including 1441. Iraq must immediately, actively and fully cooperate with UNMOVIC and the IAEA and comply unconditionally with all the relevant resolutions. Maintaining pressure on Iraq had proven to be the only mechanism capable of bringing about certain changes in its behaviour.

While dedicated to the objective of resolving the crisis peacefully until all other possibilities had been exhausted, his country firmly believed that the threat of force must be maintained, he said. The inspections had produced valuable results and might need to continue, strengthen and expand their activities in order to carry out resolution 1441. However, the seriousness of the situation required immediate and unconditional responses from the Iraqi regime, and time was running out. He called on the Council to take the necessary and appropriate action in response to Iraq's continuing threat to international peace and security. His country would support action by the international community against the common danger.

TAN YORK CHOR (Singapore) said that, based on the most recent updates given by the United Nations weapons inspectors, it had become imperative for Iraq to demonstrate, without delay, its full compliance with resolution 1441 and its full and active cooperation with the inspectors.

Noting that the international community stood at a crossroads on the issue, he said if Iraq refused to meet its disarmament obligations, it would, in all likelihood, result in an outcome that the entire world preferred to avoid. He urged Iraq to do everything necessary to fully comply with resolution 1441, including ridding itself of all its weapons of mass destruction. He also cautioned, however, the international community not to lose sight of the human dimension of the Iraq problem, saying he attached great importance to improving the humanitarian situation of the Iraqis. They had already suffered greatly over the past decade, as a result of sanctions. He urged Baghdad to now "make the right decision".

AMENA TAVE YAUVOLI (Fiji) said the effect of a war on Iraq would be felt globally. The international community, therefore, must be firmly guided more by preventive diplomacy and less by a belligerent approach to conflict resolution. The mandate for UNMOVIC was largely being adhered to. Iraq's cooperation with spontaneous on-site inspections was commendable, as was Iraq's acceptance of aerial surveillance, interview of scientists without witnesses and appointment of a second commission to search for relevant documentation. However, Iraq must now cooperate immediately, unconditionally and actively on banned weapons that were unaccounted for.

He said history had taught that disarmament by force was counter-productive and kept aggression and war in an infinite spiral. There were now peaceful alternatives. Commending the efforts of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, he said until their efforts were concluded and their recommendations were evaluated by the Council, any engagement in war would be a premature and regrettable eventuality, which must be painstakingly avoided.

EDUARDO JOSE SEVILLA SOMOZA (Nicaragua) said that the multilateral system remained the sole legitimate forum for finding solutions to which everyone could commit. When a country did not abide by its obligations, it undermined the good faith of the United Nations Charter. He sought a multilateral system capable of exercising its worldwide system faithfully, and not as a shield against accountability. Resolution 1441 (2002) was clear-cut and specific and should not now be open to flexibility, new interpretations or expansions. Further, multilateral action should not be delayed backed on what the inspectors said was lacking. The question was not simply one of inspectors and inspections; it was about disarmament.

He said that the inspectors themselves had highlighted the shortcomings of Iraq's presentation. To date, there had been no clear-cut decision by Iraq to cooperate. Concrete and effective measures were now required. Immobility and inaction would undermine trust in the world's collective resolve and threaten the very credibility of the Organization. He affirmed the importance of the United Nations, but indeed the time had come to prove its ability for immediate response in the face of Iraq's non-compliance with the resolutions of the Council. If Iraq did not cooperate, all means provided for in the Charter should be used to guarantee international peace and security.

Iraq must present credible proof of the verifiable destruction of weapons of mass destruction, he went on. It was Iraq that must allay the suspicions of the international community with "real" facts. The inspections could not continue indefinitely without a real and prompt response from Iraq, which continued to fall "seriously short" of its obligations. The current circumstances called for the Organization to take timely and definite measures, to show that peace and security was an unswerving aim. It might be possible by omission to conspire against world peace. He was confident that the Organization would not be guilty of inaction.

AGIM NESHO (Albania) said that the debate about Iraq's cooperation to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction had taken on broad dimensions, and the international community had the responsibility to act in the interest of global peace and stability. The possession and production of weapons of mass destruction, and their potential use for terrorist acts, constituted a real threat for the world. By not immediately, actively and unconditionally cooperating with United Nations weapons inspectors, Iraq had failed to comply with resolution 1441. The issue was not whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but whether it was cooperating to get rid of them.

The inspections in Iraq could not go on endlessly because it would then weaken the importance of resolution 1441 and the credibility of the United Nations, he said. He urged the international community to be willing to act without wasting time, to give the necessary message of responsibility and determination for the preservation of international order. "Vain promises and empty rhetoric about peace do not avoid crime and secure peace", he stated.

ALISHER VOHIDOV (Uzbekistan) said the statement of United States Secretary of State Colin Powell on 5 February had provided sufficient and convincing arguments to confirm the correctness of the United States position to use more resolute and cardinal steps to make sure that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.

He pointed out that the solution did not lie in increasing the number of inspectors, but in a change of Iraq's attitude to the issue of disarmament. The Council had to take responsibility and undertake effective actions to force Iraq to implement resolution 1441.

ALFRED CAPELLE (Marshall Islands) affirmed his country's unity with the United States and with its determination to ensure that Iraq provided full cooperation and compliance with resolution 1441. Marshall Islands took immense pride in its close relationship with the United States and continued to benefit greatly from the generosity of that nation.

The people of the Marshall Islands had had personal experience with extreme power and devastating effect of weapons of mass destruction, he continued. The devastation of war was evident to all. His country's sons and daughters presently serving in the United States armed forces were at the forefront of the country's minds, as they were among those placed in peril. The Marshall Islands joined with others in expressing its strong belief that the best hope for peace and security lay in Iraq's full cooperation with UNMOVIC and IAEA inspections teams and full compliance with Security Council resolution 1441.

RUBERT JAYASINGHE (Sri Lanka) said that since the adoption of resolution 1441 (2002), UNMOVIC and the IAEA had submitted two reports to the Council. In their second report, the inspectors had indicated an increased level of cooperation on the part of Iraq, pointing out, however, that vital questions remained unanswered, and that Iraq had not been fully complying with resolution 1441. A few days ago, Iraq had acceded to some of the key requests of the inspectors, including interviews of scientists without the presence of the Iraqi officials and allowing reconnaissance flights over Iraq. The third report of the inspectors was expected on 14 March.

His Government hoped that Iraq would fully comply with the substance, as well, he said. That would help to avoid a major catastrophe, which would bring suffering upon the Iraqi people and escalate tension in the Middle East. Considering the human, political and economic consequences of military intervention, Sri Lanka called for intensified and early completion of the ongoing United Nations and other diplomatic efforts to ensure a peaceful solution of the question.

ABDULLAH KHAMIS AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said a major turning point in Iraq's fulfilment of its commitment to fully disarm itself of banned weapons had been reached. The important briefing by the chief inspectors on 27 January had clearly showed the extent of cooperation and progress by the Iraqi Government in facilitating the inspections. He welcomed the recent important steps taken by the Iraqi side, which had included unconditional cooperation to the inspectors and the opening of all sensitive sites, homes and official institutions. Iraq had also provided the necessary guarantees for UNMOVIC aircraft, as well as private interviews with Iraqi scientists, culminating with a presidential decree against the production and stockpiling of proscribed weapons.

He said that those were unprecedented developments in Iraq's cooperation and should be invested in, rather than aborted through war. He had continuously called for the full elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, in order to avoid the grave consequences those might have on regional security, stability and development. A firm foundation of mutual confidence was needed between Iraq and the inspectors. In that connection, he called on the international community to strengthen the inspections regime and give them the necessary time to complete their mission in a way that respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. Actions should also be aimed at lifting the inhumane sanctions imposed on the Iraqi people. All unilateral non-peaceful options should be set aside, as those might lead to a new war with grave consequences for the entire region.

MANUEL ACOSTA BONILLA (Honduras) said the United Nations must use all possible means to ensure that Iraq destroyed all weapons of mass destruction and would not be able to acquire them in the future. Such an objective required the United Nations inspectors to get all the needed material and technical support, so that they might determine either that Iraq's aggressive threat did not exist or that it was impossible to reach such a conclusion because of Iraq's lack of cooperation. In the latter case, the Council must take adequate measures to save humanity from criminal and genocidal actions.

Hondurans wanted all governments of the world to support peace, the institution of the United Nations and human rights, he said. The dispute among governments because of different perception of facts must not sweep humankind to destruction. Iraq must accept absolutely its obligations to the rest of the world.

JAGDISH D. KOONJUL (Mauritius) said that the reports of the inspectors were comprehensive, objective and highly professional. It was extremely important for the Iraqi authorities to understand that resolution 1441 put an obligation on them to comply fully with all the requirements of the resolution, leading to the complete and total disarmament of Iraq. He welcomed the Iraqi Government's decision to allow surveillance flights and private interviews, as well as the reported adoption of national legislation prohibiting proscribed activities. He noted, however, that such measures were being taken on an incremental basis and only under pressure. If Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction, as it claimed, it should provide the necessary evidence, to convince the international community that that was the case, and that it had destroyed whatever biological and chemical weapons it was known to have possessed.

He hoped the next report from the inspectors would show that Iraq had displayed greater cooperation in substance and provided the necessary evidence. Iraq must understand that it was being given a last chance to cooperate and to come clean. In the unfortunate event that no tangible progress was seen in the next report, the Security Council would have to assume its responsibility and take whatever action was needed, while maintaining and reinforcing its credibility and centrality. The Iraqi Government must avoid any step which would increase the suffering of its people. He, therefore, appealed to the Iraqi Government to comply fully and unconditionally with the inspectors and disclose whatever it had failed to disclose in its 12,000-page declaration.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that time had not run out. The use of force was not unavoidable, and everything must be done to achieve a peaceful solution. That required the immediate, active and unconditional cooperation of Iraq, as stated in resolution 1441 (2002). He was greatly concerned by the reports of the chief weapons inspectors, in particular that there had been no real breakthrough on substance. The UNMOVIC and the IAEA needed urgent answers to their highly important and legitimate questions, namely, what had happened to the weapons of mass destruction that remained unaccounted for? No one should have to beg for those answers. Iraq was required to provide them, and they should have been given long ago.

He said he agreed that inspections should continue, but more inspectors or better equipment could not, by themselves, resolve the outstanding issues. As Dr. Blix said last Friday, the period of disarmament through inspections should be "short" if Iraq chose to cooperate fully as required. It was a challenge to the Council, and an affront to the international community at large, that Iraq was withholding full cooperation. The authorities in Baghdad could not fail to understand that it was in their hands to demonstrate how present uncertainties could be eliminated and a peaceful outcome ensured.

As the pre-eminent body for upholding international peace and security, any further steps must be anchored in the Council, he said. Pressure would lead to progress in Iraq and the Council must seek a common approach. Iraq, for its part, must recognize the full extent of the serious consequences stated in resolution 1441 and end its 12 years of disregard for the authority of the world Organization. That would pave the way for peace.

ELADIO LOIZAGA (Paraguay) said the path of inspections was the right mechanism to guarantee the effective disarmament of Iraq. The heads of the inspection teams had reported that Iraq continued with an ambivalent attitude vis-à-vis the inspections, although progress had been noted that might point to a change of attitude. Such a change must be real, however. Inspectors needed time to carry out their tasks, but inspections could not continue indefinitely, especially without full Iraqi cooperation.

He said the Government of Iraq must comply immediately, unconditionally and fully with Council resolutions and step up its cooperation with inspectors. The Council should play an essential role in the current crisis and was the only body that could legitimately authorize the use of force. The unity of the Council was a foundation for any legitimate and forceful international action. Only a united Council would be able credibly to take the necessary measures to disarm Iraq. His country maintained that all available measures to resolve the matter peacefully must be exhausted, reserving the use of force as a last resort. Iraq would dictate whether the solution would be peaceful.

THORSTEINN INGOLFSSON (Iceland) said that, during recent months, the Council had demonstrated resolve and unity in addressing the serious threat to international peace posed by Iraq's failure to respect its obligations under Article 25 of the Charter, "to agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Council". In its resolution 1441 (2002), the Council had unanimously given Iraq a final opportunity to comply with the demand for full disarmament. Baghdad should not be in any doubt of what was required of it. By "immediate, active and unconditional cooperation", Iraq had an opportunity, and indeed an obligation, to ease the grave situation with which the international community was now faced. There was still time for a peaceful solution of the crisis.

The UNMOVIC and IAEA had his country's support, he continued, but his delegation did not believe that the strengthened inspection regime would necessarily provide the answers, which for so long had been awaited from the Iraqi authorities. What was lacking was Iraq's demonstrated full cooperation and provision of the required information without further delay. Dr. Blix had stated that "the period of disarmament through inspection could be short" if Iraq chose to cooperate fully, as required by the Council. Towards that end, the inspectors should be given more time, but firm pressure must be maintained.

The apparent lack of unity within the international community on the way to proceed had been of some concern, he added. It was of the utmost importance that unanimous decisions by the Council be respected and that Member States be prepared to enforce them. The threat of serious consequences as stipulated in resolution 1441 must not be compromised. The credibility of the United Nations and the Security Council was at stake. The use of force must be the last resort for the Council. If, however, other measures provided to it by the Charter proved to be inadequate, it must face its responsibility.

PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said throughout the world people were making their voices heard: no one wanted a war. People were also aware of Iraqi mass violations of human rights and the fact that, equipped with weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein was a threat to the region and to the world. There was no proof Iraq had rid itself of its weapons of mass destruction. On the contrary, there were still weapons of mass destruction unaccounted for. Resolution 1441 (2002) had given Iraq one last chance to answer remaining questions convincingly and to disarm itself.

While there was a beginning of Iraqi cooperation, that cooperation was process oriented and given grudgingly, he said. Recent cooperation had only come after intense international pressure and a deliberate build-up of military forces in the region. More time for inspectors could be useful, but only if Iraq decided to cooperate fully and transparently, beginning now. To make clear to Iraq what was expected, the Council must lay out a list of key remaining disarmament tasks. The Council should also establish an early deadline for compliance. That would allow the international community to judge whether Iraq was cooperating on substance, and not just on process.

He said the crisis was not only about weapons of mass destruction, but also about the people of Iraq. The humanitarian situation was already grave. Canada applauded efforts of United Nations agencies and others to undertake preventive measures. He urged all members of the Council to keep the welfare of the Iraqi people at the heart of its deliberations. Canada was fully prepared to accept the judgement of the inspectors and the Council, and would assume its responsibilities accordingly.

REVAS ADAMIA (Georgia) said that the illegal possession of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and aggressive separatism threatened the very foundations of the international system. In that situation, the Council's discharge of its responsibility for maintaining international peace and security was being put to a highly critical test. His country's tragic experience of continued conflicts in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region of Georgia had highlighted the value of peace. A high toll was always paid when the international community was not in a position to act, in concert and resolutely, to the situations affecting international peace and security.

He said that peace should always be given a chance and, clearly, that was the substance of the offer extended to Iraq by the Council under resolution 1441 (2002). At the same time, it could not avoid inaction, as Iraq continued to possess mass destruction weapons that threatened international peace and security. The Iraqi regime had failed to meet the important requirements of resolution 1441, namely, the full, accurate and complete declaration of its holdings, and voluntary, unconditional and active cooperation with UNMOVIC and the IAEA. He, therefore, associated himself with those delegations that had called on the Council to meet its responsibilities and take effective action, in order to secure Iraq's immediate compliance. No one should be allowed to breach its obligations under the Council's mandatory resolutions.

HOUSSAM ASAAD DIAB (Lebanon) said that the inspections had not provided any evidence of the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and any party of good faith could not but agree to let the inspectors complete their mandate under resolution 1441 (2002). The completion of that process was the only viable option under the Charter and provisions of international law. The overwhelming majority of Member States advocated a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Iraq had been forthcoming in its cooperation with the United Nations, and the latest report by the inspectors showed progress in that respect. While recognizing the cooperation by Iraq, he called on that country to show proactive cooperation with the inspectors.

Continuing, he noted with deep regret the application of different criteria when Israel was concerned and called on the Council to ensure the removal of Israel's weapons of mass destruction, which posed a threat to international peace and security. That would render the whole region a nuclear-weapon-free zone, as mandated by relevant United Nations resolutions. All the resolutions should be implemented, in all their aspects.

Launching war would put an end to the existing world order, he added. The war would have dire consequences for all Arab States, which continued to suffer as a result of war and continued Israeli occupation and the racist policies of Israel against the Palestinian people. It was necessary to be guided by the United Nations Charter and the will of the majority of Member States, in order to maintain international peace and security and avoid war.

ROKSANDA NINČIĆ (Serbia and Montenegro) said it was up to the Iraq regime to take the opportunity and end the crisis by fully cooperating with the international inspectors and disarming, as demanded by the Security Council. Iraq would bear all the consequences of its failure to do so.

Reaffirming her country's support of Security Council resolution 1441 (2002) and the work of both UNMOVIC and the IAEA, he said every effort had to be made to preserve international peace and security, strengthen the process of non-proliferation of arms of mass destruction, and secure Iraq's full cooperation with the United Nations. Such full cooperation meant Iraqi authorities must immediately provide unhindered access to all relevant information, documents, locations and persons to the inspectors.

Iraq must disarm comprehensively and verifiably without delay, she continued. Further, it had to provide credible evidence that it had done so. That was the road to a peaceful solution of the crisis, for which all were striving. Great responsibility lay with the Security Council, which had the primary role to maintain international peace and security. Its authority in that regard should not be questioned. Similarly, the patience of the international community should not be tested.

GINTS JEGERMANIS (Latvia) said that, although his country had aligned itself with the European Council conclusions of 17 February, it was still necessary to express its own views. It was the responsibility of Iraq to prove that disarmament was taking place. The inspectors' task was not to play "hide and seek" with Iraqi authorities, but to register disarmament. As the European Council had affirmed, the united stance of the international community, backed by military force, had slowly moved Iraq in the direction of more cooperation.

He regarded the use of force as the last resort. Nevertheless, he said, it was for the Iraqi regime to end the crisis by complying with the demands of the Security Council. That required an immediate change of attitude on the part of Iraqi authorities. If that did not happen, only Iraq would be responsible for the serious consequences that might follow. Latvia would stand together with its allies in the international community as it dealt effectively with the threat posed by Iraq. He called on the Council to take the necessary and appropriate action in response to Iraq's continuing threat to international peace and security.

MISHECK MUCHETWA (Zimbabwe) associated himself with the official position of the African Union that unilateral military action against Iraq would adversely affect Africa's stability and development. During the last few weeks, the Council had witnessed an assault on the principle of multilateralism by a determined and impatient ad hoc coalition, which believed might was right. The unilateralists conveniently forgot that "going it alone" lacked the legitimacy in addressing the challenge at hand. The role of the United Nations could not be overemphasized in the settlement of disputes and preservation of peace and security.

Germany had reminded the Council that the sanctions regime imposed to encourage Iraq's compliance with its disarmament obligations had been more effective in ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction than the Gulf war itself, he continued. The sanctions regime had been possible because of cooperation. It was clear that a Member State could engage in individual and collective measures of self-defence, even without the United Nations. As shown by the Iraq case, however, the Security Council's authority had assisted United States policy by adding the teeth of economic sanctions, extending a broad political umbrella, and authorizing on-site monitoring on a foreign State territory.

Mr. ElBaradei's statement on 14 February that the IAEA could carry out its mandate without Iraq's cooperation, he said, should put to rest the concerns of those who wanted the international community to believe otherwise. His delegation was not suggesting that Iraq should not cooperate with the inspectors, but it was also necessary to give serious consideration to the Arab proverb that "an empty hand could give nothing". The inspectors had found no evidence that Iraq had reactivated its weapons of mass destruction programme, and it was necessary to abide by their findings. It was the duty of the Council to support the inspectors, whose mandate was not fault-finding, but verifying Iraq's disarmament. He identified his delegation with France's leadership in guiding the Council back to its core business of maintaining global peace and security. The French proposals and offers by other members to assist in the disarmament process of Iraq were a milestone in the disarmament process.

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, said that the international community was rightly worried and was addressing a just and urgent cause of the disarmament of arsenals of mass destruction. The threat of weapons of mass destruction was, unfortunately, not restricted to just a single region, but was surfacing in other parts of the world. The Holy See was convinced that, in efforts to draw strength from the wealth of peaceful tools provided by international law, to resort to force would not be a just one.

"To the grave consequences of a civilian population that has already been tested long enough are added the dark prospects of tensions and conflicts between peoples and cultures, and the deprecated reintroduction of war as a way to resolve untenable situations", he said. The Holy See was further convinced that even though the process of inspections appeared somewhat slow, it still remained an effective path that could lead to the building of a consensus, which, if widely shared by nations, would make it almost impossible for any government to act otherwise, without risking international isolation.

He was thus of the view that it was also the proper path that would lead to an agreed and honourable resolution to the problem, which, in turn, could provide the basis for a real and lasting peace, he said. The vast majority of the international community was calling for a diplomatic resolution of the Iraqi crisis and for exploring all avenues for its peaceful settlement. That call should not be ignored, adding that the Holy See encouraged the parties concerned to keep the dialogue open.

MOHAMMED A. ALDOURI (Iraq) thanked all delegations that had shown such concern for the Iraqi crisis, especially the vast majority who had advocated peace and opposition to war. He also understood those States who favoured the extreme positions of the United States and the United Kingdom. He only called upon them to carefully consider the issue and not move hastily, as war was a grave moral responsibility.

He reiterated there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Iraq would continue to cooperate constructively with the inspections, in substance and process, to disprove allegations that Iraq had such weapons. There were no real problems in the relationship with the inspectors. However, there were outstanding issues regarding disarmament. What was wanted from Iraq was not to hand over weapons of mass destruction, but hand over evidence that it was free of weapons of mass destruction. He was confident that no one would find weapons of mass destruction, because there were none. Iraq had opened all doors and allowed all it could allow. The inspectors just had to do their work in a measured way, away from pressures put upon them, either by the media or by the United States and the United Kingdom.

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