16 December 1998


Press Release
SC/6611



SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS TO DISCUSS MILITARY STRIKES AGAINST IRAQ; SOME MEMBERS CHALLENGE USE OF FORCE WITHOUT COUNCIL CONSENT

19981216
Iraq Contends International Law Flouted; United States, United Kingdom Say Diplomacy Exhausted after Repeated Blocking of Weapons Inspections

Security Council members, meeting this evening to consider military strikes against Iraq today by the United States and the United Kingdom, held divided views on the use of force without Council consent.

The air strikes came in the wake of the latest report of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) which stated that Iraq had not met its obligation to cooperate fully with the Special Commission, and that the Commission was unable to conduct the substantive disarmament work mandated to it by the Council.

The representative of Iraq said the Executive Chairman of UNSCOM had singled out five incidents, out of a total of 300 that had been undertaken since UNSCOM had resumed operations on 18 November, and had deemed those five incidents to indicate a lack of cooperation. In one of the incidents, the Iraqi side had asked that UNSCOM respect the Moslem religious day on Friday. Without Council knowledge or approval, he had withdrawn the inspectors from Iraq to pave the way for the aggression of the United States and Britain.

As he spoke, rockets and bombs were falling over the cities and villages of Iraq, he said. He was not talking about a fireworks display being enjoyed by CNN viewers, but bombs that would rip out the hearts of elderly men and women and remove the smiles of children. The United States had once again flouted international law. It had not even allowed the Council to complete discussion on the maintenance of international peace and security.

The representative of the United Kingdom said Iraq had deliberately provoked a series of crises over the past 14 months. The report of UNSCOM made clear that Iraq had yet again failed to keep its promises. The whole continuing history of concealment and deceit was the reason for having reached the point of military action. The objectives of the military action were clear -- to degrade Iraq's capability to build and use weapons of mass destruction; and to diminish the military threat Iraq posed to its neighbours.


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The representative of the United States said coalition forces were acting under the authority provided by Council resolutions. The resort to military action was undertaken only when it was evident that diplomacy had been exhausted. The Government of Iraq bore full responsibility for the consequences of the military operation. Any Iraqi attempt to attack coalition forces or to initiate aggressive action against neighbouring States would be met with swift response by the coalition.

The United States Government's quarrel was not with the Iraqi people, he added. It would do all it could to minimize civilian casualties and it would support Iraqis who were working for the day when the people of their country would be free to choose their own leaders and shape their own destiny.

The representative of the Russian Federation asked what right had the United States and the United Kingdom to justify the use of force to enforce Council resolutions or mandates; no one could act independently on behalf of the United Nations or assume the functions of a world policeman. While there were problems between Iraq and UNSCOM, the current crisis was artificially created. The Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, Richard Butler, had presented a distorted picture of what was taking place in the country.

Mr. Butler "grossly abused his authority", and his actions led to the sharp deterioration of the situation in the country, he continued. Justification for today's unilateral act was based on the report presented by the Chairman. He was convinced that resolution of the Iraqi problem was possible only through political and diplomatic channels and the norms of international law.

Iraq had resumed its cooperation with UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), making the unprovoked military action groundless, the representative of China asserted. The differences between Iraq and UNSCOM could be settled by dialogue. The use of force might create serious consequences for the implementation of Council resolutions. He called for a stop to all military action and a return to the path of cooperation and dialogue.

He said the leader of UNSCOM had played a dishonourable role in the crisis, and his report was evasive. The United States and the United Kingdom indicated that they had taken the UNSCOM report as the basis for their actions. That might have been the purpose of the report, but however they tried to make use of it, there was no reason for the use of force against Iraq.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Costa Rica, Slovenia, Portugal, Sweden, Brazil, Japan, Gambia, Kenya, France and Gabon.

The meeting, that had begun at 10:05 p.m., was adjourned at 11:25 p.m.


Council Work Programme

The Security Council met tonight to consider the situation between Iraq and Kuwait. It had before it a letter dated 15 December from the Secretary- General to the President of the Council, in which he submits reports from the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA ) and the Executive Director of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) concerning their work in Iraq (document S/1998/1172).

The reports cover the period since 17 November 1998. The IAEA report states that Iraq "has provided the necessary level of cooperation to enable the above-enumerated activities to be completed efficiently and effectively".

The report from UNSCOM includes material that relates to issues prior to 17 November 1998. With regard to the period since then, the report presents a mixed picture and concludes that UNSCOM did not enjoy full cooperation from Iraq.

The Secretary-General says that, in the light of the findings and conclusions in the reports, the Council might wish to consider three possible options: that the experience over the period since 17 November does not provide sufficient basis to move forward with a comprehensive review at this time; that Iraq has not provided full cooperation but that it should be permitted additional time to demonstrate its commitment to do so; or that the Council may wish to proceed with a comprehensive review on the premise that it is sufficiently important to know precisely what has been achieved in the area of disarmament over the entire period since 1991.

Also before the Council is a letter from the Director-General of the IAEA dated 16 December (document S/1998/1175), in which he informs the Council that he has decided to temporarily relocate to Bahrain all IAEA personnel currently in Baghdad. That action was taken after the decision of the UNSCOM, on whose logistic support the IAEA activities in Iraq are dependent, to withdraw all of its personnel from Iraq and out of concern for the safety and security of IAEA personnel.

Also before the Council was a letter from the Secretary-General dated 15 December to the President of the Security Council (document S/1998/1173), conveying a communication from the Permanent Representative of Iraq, Nizar Hamdoon, which transmitted a letter from the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Tariq Aziz. The letter reviewed activities in Iraq of teams of UNSCOM and the IAEA from 18 November to 13 December.

The Deputy Prime Minister enclosed a report which lists: monitoring activities; inspection team activities, including chemical activity, biological activity, missile activity, and nuclear activity; concealment allegations; air surveillance; and requests.


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Addressing concealment allegations, the report states that the UNSCOM team carried out its work "in an intrusive and provocative manner, showing no respect for the procedures agreed upon between Iraq and UNSCOM, especially those relating to the inspection of sensitive sites". It was obvious, the report continues, that the team had sought from the beginning to create problems by applying provocative methods in its work.

Addressing air surveillance, the report states that UNSCOM has shown no respect for the modalities of common understanding between the two sides, especially those relating to avoiding flights over Baghdad City and the residential areas, in accordance with procedures agreed upon since 1992.

Statements

NIZAR HAMDOON (Iraq) said that, as he spoke, rockets and bombs were falling over the cities and villages of Iraq. He was not talking about a fireworks display being enjoyed by CNN viewers, but bombs that would rip out the hearts of elderly men and women and remove the smiles of children. The bombs were machines of destruction that were wrecking the lives of Iraqi civilians who had been suffering from one of the most horrendous sanctions in history.

It was a grim and sad day in the history of the United Nations and the Council, he said. At a time when the Council and the Secretary-General were discussing the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the United States and Britain had launched their aggression against Iraq. Their pretext had been that one of the reports emphasized a lack of cooperation by Iraq. The United States had once again flouted international law. It had not even allowed the Council to complete discussion on the maintenance of international peace and security.

He said the behaviour of the Executive Chairman of UNSCOM furnished evidence of his partiality. The Executive Chairman had singled out five incidents -- out of a total of 300 that had been undertaken since UNSCOM had resumed operations on 18 November -- and had deemed those five incidents to indicate a lack of cooperation. In one of the incidents, the Iraqi side had asked that UNSCOM respect the Moslem religious day on Friday. Another incident regarded a paper which the Executive Chairman had been invited to discuss jointly with the Secretary-General, but he had refused to do so. Without the knowledge and approval of the Council, he had withdrawn the inspectors from Iraq to pave the way for the aggression of the United States and Britain.

The exaggerated uproar over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was a big lie, he said. The other lie was that Iraq posed a threat to its neighbours. The IAEA had recently said its activities were virtually completed. Where were the weapons that UNSCOM claimed Iraq had? he asked. He challenged UNSCOM to provide physical evidence to the Council.


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Which was the neighbouring State that claimed Iraq was threatening its security? he asked. In fact, Iraq was threatened every day by some permanent members of the Council and a neighbour of Iraq. He asked the Council to call for an unconditional cessation of the aggression against Iraq. That aggression would prove to be futile. He wished a holy Ramadan to Iraqis and Muslims throughout the world.

SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said tonight's meeting was taking place at a time when Iraq was being subjected to massive missile strikes which had resulted in casualties. There were Russian citizens in Baghdad; if their lives were imperilled, there would be serious consequences.

He said serious efforts had been made in the Gulf to disarm Iraq; the various monitoring mechanisms had taken time to set up. The carrying out of an "unprovoked act of force" by the United States and the United Kingdom violated the principles of international law and the principle of the Charter. There was now a threat to the international order, and the Council had to decide what steps had to be taken to restore international law.

He asked what right had the United States and the United Kingdom to justify the use of force to enforce Council resolutions or mandates; no one could act independently on behalf of the United Nations or assume the functions of a world policeman. The Iraqi leadership had even now confirmed its readiness to continue cooperation.

While there were problems between Iraq and UNSCOM, he added, the current crisis was artificially created. The Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, Richard Butler, had presented a distorted picture of what was taking place in Iraq. He "grossly abused his authority", and his actions led to the sharp deterioration of the situation in the country. Justification for today's unilateral act was based on the report presented by Mr. Butler. The Russian Federation could not remain unconcerned and appealed for an end to the present acts of force. His country was convinced that resolution of the Iraqi problem was possible only through political and diplomatic channels and the norms of international law.

QIN HUASUN (China) said Iraq had resumed its cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA. In the light of that, the unprovoked military action by the two States was completely groundless. He was concerned for the people of Iraq and the United Nations personnel in the country. He had said earlier that China was against force or threat of force as they were, in themselves, a threat to international peace and security. China had always supported the peaceful settlement of disputes and was against the use of force in international relations. The differences between Iraq and UNSCOM could be settled by dialogue. The use of force might create serous consequences for the implementation of Council resolutions. He called for a stop to all military action and to return to the path of cooperation and dialogue.


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He said the leader of UNSCOM had played a dishonourable role in the crisis. The report was evasive. Letters addressed to the Council from the United States and the United Kingdom indicated that they had taken the letters from UNSCOM as the basis for their actions. That might have been the purpose of the reports, but however they tried to make use of the reports, there was no reason for the use of force against Iraq. Only through diplomatic means could there be a settlement. The Charter entrusted the Council with maintaining international peace and security. China was ready to join the international community to achieve that end.

Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) told the Council that a few hours earlier, the armed forces of his country, along with those of the United States, had taken military action in Iraq. It had not been a hasty decision. The road to the crisis had been long, and at any point on that road Iraq could have chosen to cooperate fully and freely, avoiding the action that had had to be taken.

United Nations resolution 687, he continued, which had brought an end to the Gulf War, had made it a condition of ceasefire both that Iraq destroy its weapons of mass destruction and agree to the monitoring of its obligation to destroy such weapons. That assurance had been vital because Iraq had invaded Kuwait without provocation. In the course of that conflict, Iraq had launched indiscriminate ballistic missile attacks on neighbouring countries, after already having shown its readiness and willingness to use the most deadly weapons.

Iraq had used chemical weapons, mustard gas and nerve gas, he continued. The UNSCOM had been set up to remove Iraq's extensive capabilities in the area of weapons of mass destruction and to provide a full and verifiable account of what Iraq had produced and used in the past. Iraq had never given UNSCOM the cooperation it needed to complete its task. Iraq had concealed evidence, blocked inspections and failed to produce documents relevant to its programmes of mass destruction weapons which were known to exist.

He said Iraq had deliberately provoked a series of crises over the past 14 months. On 14 November, the date of the most recent of those crises, the last extra effort to avert the use of force had been made, and the Secretary- General had added his own words of warning to Saddam Hussein that there would be no second chance again if he again broke his word. The report of UNSCOM made clear that Iraq had yet again failed to keep its promises. The whole continuing history of concealment and deceit was the reason for having reached the point of military action.

He said the objectives of the military action were clear -- to degrade Iraq's capability to build and use weapons of mass destruction; and to diminish the military threat Iraq posed to its neighbours. The targets had been chosen on the basis of their connection with Iraq's military capability,


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its mass destruction weapons and its ability to threaten neighbours. There had been a clear legal basis for military action in the resolutions adopted by the Security Council. Since the Gulf War, the entire international community had worked to stop Saddam Hussein from keeping and developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and from continuing to threaten his neighbours.

For the safety and stability of both the region and the wider world, he could not be allowed to continue those actions. If he would not abandon his weapons of mass destruction programme through reason and diplomacy, it had to be degraded and diminished by military force. All other avenues had been exhausted, and there was no realistic alternative.

BERNARD NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said his country continued to uphold a policy of rejecting the use of force in international affairs. International law was the only means to resolve problems. Article 33 of the Charter addressed the issue of the peaceful settlement of disputes. Force, as an exceptional recourse, was the sole and exclusive faculty of the Council. Only the United Nations could authorize such actions. The air strikes carried out today by the United States and the United Kingdom on military installations in Baghdad, Iraq, reaffirmed Costa Rica's rejection of the unilateral use of force.

He said he had observed with frustration the policy of non-compliance and provocation by the Government of Iraq. Such actions had damaged international trust in Iraq's word, and had caused its population to suffer. Costa Rica wished to issue a forceful and energetic appeal to Iraq to end its provocative actions, fulfil its obligations and bring its conduct in line with the requests of the international community.

DANILO TÜRK (Slovenia) said he regretted that the Council found itself in a situation of military action against Iraq. He would have preferred to be able to proceed immediately with the comprehensive review for which the Council had been patiently working in the last few months. He particularly regretted that the Iraqi leadership had prevented that review by failing to live up to its latest unequivocal commitment to full and unconditional cooperation. It should have been clear that the perpetuation of crises could, sooner rather than later, lead to forceful action. They should have understood better the repeatedly and unanimously stated position of the Council that hindering the disarmament work was not acceptable.

It was difficult to predict how the Council could best deal with Iraq in the future, he said. He emphasized that he shared the Secretary-General's concern for human lives and for the fate of humanitarian relief efforts. It was necessary to explore all possible ways to continue to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. He welcomed the readiness of the Secretary-General to play his part in that important task.


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ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) said that after so many efforts and attempts by the Security Council to bring Iraq to the path of cooperation, the latest report of the Executive Director of UNSCOM stated that the country had not lived up to its commitments, and that it had not cooperated fully with the Special Commission. The United States and the United Kingdom had made it clear last month that, in the absence of full cooperation by Iraq, they would act without returning to the Council. It was, therefore, not a surprise to his delegation that a decision had been taken to act militarily. Naturally, the Council would have to evaluate the consequences of such action with regard to fulfilling the goals of disarming Iraq and maintaining peace and security in the region.

He said Portugal deeply regretted that a peaceful solution could not be found, but the main cause of the current crisis was the obstinate policy of Iraq's rulers in refusing to comply with Council resolutions. As the Chairman of the 661 Committee (on sanctions), he had been particularly sensitive to the consequences of the current crisis on the Iraqi people and had sought to do everything possible in the context of the humanitarian programme to alleviate their suffering.

Portugal would continue to try to contribute actively to find ways to minimize the effects of the current circumstances, on top of the already difficult living conditions of the Iraqi people. "But we must also remember that the primary responsibility for the well-being of all Iraqis falls to the authorities of that country."

A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said coalition forces today had begun operations against military targets in Iraq. The ongoing military action was substantial. The coalition was attacking Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes and its ability to threaten its neighbours. Coalitions forces were acting under the authority provided by Council resolutions. The resort to military action was undertaken only when it was evident that diplomacy had been exhausted. The Government of Iraq bore full responsibility for the consequences of the military operation. The United States had worked with its partners in the Council in a sincere effort to bring about a peaceful resolution of the confrontation created by Iraq.

He said the Council had elaborated its conditions, including full, final and complete disclosure of all aspects of Iraq's programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, Iraq had repeatedly taken actions which constituted flagrant material breaches of Council resolution provisions. By refusing to make available documents and information requested by UNSCOM within the scope of its mandate, by imposing new restrictions on the weapons inspectors and by repeatedly denying access to facilities which UNSCOM wished to inspect, Iraq had acted in flagrant material breach of resolution 687 (1991).


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Any Iraqi attempt to attack coalition forces or to initiate aggressive action against neighbouring States would be met with swift response by the coalition.

He said President Clinton had stressed that the decision to use force was never cost-free. There would be unintended Iraqi casualties. Indeed, in the past, Saddam had intentionally put civilians in harm's way in a cynical bid to sway international opinion. The United States Government's quarrel was not with the Iraqi people. It would do all it could to minimize civilian casualties and it would support Iraqis who were working for the day when the people of their country would be free to choose their own leaders and shape their own destiny.

HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden) said it was not difficult to say who had been to blame for the crisis between Iraq and the United Nations, which had been on the agenda of the Security Council for the two years Sweden had sat at the Council table. The Government of Iraq had again and again refused to abide by the clear obligations decided by a unanimous Security Council, and it was clear Iraq had not fulfilled the promise given to the Secretary-General only a month ago that it would cooperate fully and without conditions with United Nations weapons inspectors.

The question of Iraqi compliance had been a matter for the Council to deal with; those sitting around the Council table were responsible for ensuring implementation of the Council's resolutions, and they were to decide the course of action. He had said before that when Iraq seriously violated its obligations and when all diplomatic means had been exhausted, he would be ready to support a Council decision on military action as a last resort. A few hours earlier, military action had been taken against Iraq without such a decision. The air strikes had been carried out as Council members had been meeting in informal consultations, discussing the latest UNSCOM report on Iraq's cooperation, along with the Secretary-General's recommendations sent to the Council only last night.

As the Secretary-General had said, it had been a sad day for the United Nations. It had indeed been a sad day for the world; Sweden regretted the air attacks and their consequences for the civilians of Iraq. The Council had not even had a chance to conclude its evaluation of the latest developments before military action had been a fact. The action would not be much help in getting the inspections going again, which touched upon the overriding aim, which had been that of ridding Iraq of its programme for developing awful weapons of mass destruction.

CELSO L.N. AMORIM (Brazil) said it was regrettable that, just as the Council was preparing to undertake a comprehensive review of the sanctions imposed on Iraq, as suggested by the Secretary-General, the international community was confronted with yet another impasse. Had Iraq demonstrated full


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cooperation and complied with its obligations under Council resolutions and the Memorandum of Understanding, "we would not be experiencing the current crisis". The military action this afternoon had been decided upon at the very moment the Council had gathered to discuss the report presented by the Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, Richard Butler. "We had expected to participate in a discussion of the three options suggested by the Secretary-General in his letter." As it turned out, the Council did not have the opportunity to reach its own conclusions.

He said, "We deplore the circumstances that have led to the use of force." Brazil had always favoured dialogue, diplomacy and multilateralism, in articulation of responses to threats to international peace and security. The use of force should be considered only as a last resort. When the use of force was contemplated, it should take place within a multilateral framework. The Council remained the sole body with legal authority to mandate actions aimed at reinforcing compliance with its own resolutions.

MASAKI KONISHI (Japan) said the 14 November letter of Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister to the Secretary-General had raised hopes that Iraq would resume full cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA. The Security Council had been looking forward to a comprehensive review of Iraq's compliance with its obligations under relevant resolutions. That was to be conducted once resumption of full cooperation by Iraq with UNSCOM and the IAEA had been confirmed, making the prospect of lifting the sanctions clearer, a step Japan had long awaited in order to restore its traditional friendship with the peoples of Iraq.

The letter of UNSCOM's Executive Chairman had regrettably indicated that Iraq's resumption of cooperation with UNSCOM had not been sufficient, and that Iraq's behaviour had constituted a serious violation of the Security Council resolutions and the Memorandum of Understanding signed earlier this year. He said the Security Council and Member States had worked strenuously and had made their utmost diplomatic efforts to ensure Iraq's cooperation and full compliance with Council resolutions. Japan itself had made numerous démarches to the Government of Iraq and had made various efforts to correct Iraq's behaviour.

Iraq had failed to provide its full cooperation to UNSCOM and that had led to the consequences faced today. He said Japan supported the action taken by the United States and the United Kingdom, and it strongly urged the Government of Iraq to comply immediately and unconditionally with all its obligations under Council resolutions. That would enable Iraq to normalize its relationship with the international community and, hopefully, the plight of the Iraqi people would be alleviated.

BABOUCARR B.I. JAGNE (Gambia) said that this morning, in reviewing the options offered by the Secretary-General following UNSCOM's latest report, it


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appeared that they constituted a possible way out of the quandary. It was not known that it was already too late. He said it was unfortunate that force had to be used to deal with the situation. Whatever the outcome, he wanted to see the unity of the Security Council restored. If that failed, the ability of the vital organ of the United Nations, which had the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, would be seriously impaired.

He said Iraq should resume full cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA, as required. In that way, the Council could proceed as planned with the comprehensive review. That review must take into account the question of Kuwaiti prisoners of war, and archives and other properties removed illegally from Kuwait during the invasion. He believed there was unanimity in the Council to do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of innocent people.

NJUGUNA MAHUGU (Kenya) said it was extremely worrying that while the Council had been beginning to discuss the UNSCOM and IAEA reports, a decision to strike Iraq on the basis of that information had been taken, and indeed the strike itself had already been under way. Kenya had repeatedly said any decision to take further action against Iraq remained the sole responsibility of the Security Council. It was difficult to understand the reason given for today's attack, given the contents of the two reports and the letter submitted to the Council today. The Secretary-General had said in his letter that the IAEA had reported "the necessary level of cooperation to enable activities to be completed efficiently and effectively".

The UNSCOM report, the Secretary-General had said, "presented a mixed picture" and concluded that UNSCOM did not enjoy "full cooperation" from Iraq. The representative of Kenya said the report did not indicate that UNSCOM suffered a total lack of cooperation. The Secretary-General had offered three options that would have moved the process of disarming Iraq forward. The decision to force compliance by Iraq without the Council's prior authority had run contrary to the spirit and purpose of Council resolutions.

ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said France deplored the situation that had led to the air strike and the consequences for the Iraqi people. He regretted that Iraq had not been able to meet the requirements that would have allowed the UNSCOM to carry out its responsibilities. He expressed his Government's gratitude to the Secretary-General for his efforts, and stated that France had always supported the activities of the Secretary-General, despite the barriers that had been placed in his way.

CHARLES ESSONGHÉ (Gabon) said his delegation wished to voice its regret at the turn of events since this morning, despite numerous diplomatic efforts at every level. Those efforts had given a glimpse of the possible peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis. The hopes that had been engendered had, however, been breached by today's events. He thanked the Secretary-General for his efforts.

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