27/03/2003
Press Release
DC/2858



DEBATE ON IRAQ WAR ERUPTS IN CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT


Conference Holds Final Plenary of First Part of 2003 Session


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 27 March (UN Information Service) -- Iraq and the United States debated before the Conference on Disarmament this morning the war in the Middle East, with the United States contending that after 12 years of Iraqi non-compliance with Security Council resolutions, the threat of force had to be backed up with actual force, and Iraq contending that cooperation in disarmament in fact had occurred and the current hostilities were a flagrant violation of international law.


A Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic opened the unscheduled discussion by saying the war had nothing to do with international law but was "the law of the jungle", and thousands of innocent Iraqis were being killed.


Also intervening on the matter was a Representative of the United Kingdom, who said Iraq had a history of using weapons of mass destruction against its neighbours and its own people, and so something had to be done in the face of the country’s long-term non-compliance with Security Council resolutions calling for it to disarm.


This morning’s plenary was the last of the first of the three series of meetings the Conference has scheduled for 2003.  The Conference will resume from 12 May through 27 June.


Richard Fallon of Ireland, sitting in for current Conference President Mary Whelan of Ireland, noted that the Conference’s 1,000th plenary would occur in three years, and there was a sober possibility that even by then the Conference might not have reached on a programme of work. He called for national delegations to think proactively during the intersessional period so that meetings might resume in a meaningful fashion in mid-May.


There were five scheduled speakers at the morning session.


A Representative of Switzerland said that, in conformity with its mandate, the Conference should begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for the manufacture of weapons and other explosive devices as soon as possible.


A Representative of Romania reported on the results of a Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in

Europe) Small Arms Document and the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its aspects, held in Bucharest from 24 to 26 February. One of the main objectives was to focus on the relevant fields of marking/tracing and import/export/transit controls of small arms and light weapons, the representative said.


A Representative of the United Kingdom said a fissile-material cut-off treaty (FMCT) was essential for global nuclear disarmament, as disarmament could never be achieved without first having verification arrangements for fissile material production facilities.


A Representative of Slovenia summarized a United Nations/OSCE Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects in South Eastern Europe, which took place from 10 to 12 March at Brdo pri Kranju. The meeting also provided an opportunity for Slovenia to present its initiative on establishing a Regional Contact Point for Small Arms and Light Weapons, which could be an effective arrangement complementing the existing mechanisms for cooperation within the region.  The Representative also reported the destruction of the last 200 anti-personnel landmines of the Slovene Army in accordance with the Ottawa Convention.


And a Representative of Lithuania announced that on 25 March 2003, the Lithuanian Parliament had ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, and said Lithuania would proceed with the final obligations necessary to become a full party to the Convention.


Statements


CHRISTIAN FAESSLER (Switzerland) said that, in conformity with its mandate, the Conference should begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for the manufacture of weapons and other explosive devices as soon as possible.  A fissile-material cut-off treaty (FMCT) constituted an important element in the progression towards nuclear disarmament and in multilateral negotiations for disarmament in general.  As a member of the Conference on Disarmament, Switzerland would participate in future negotiations on the treaty based on: the immediate resumption of negotiations on the basis of the mandate of 23 March 1995; an immediate halt to the production of fissile materials upon the commencement of negotiations; concern over possible diversions of fissile material by non-State actors or terrorist groups; the view that the elimination of stocks of existing fissile material should be the subject of a separate agreement; and the implementation of a non-discriminatory system of verification of the FMCT.


This treaty, said Mr. Faessler, would cover the five recognized nuclear powers as well as all other States possessing nuclear weapons, officially or not.  Negotiations on the FMCT should meet the following three political imperatives: they should be in addition to non-proliferations measures taken by States possessing the capability to produce fissile material for military uses; they should strengthen existing instruments in the field of arms control and nuclear non-proliferation; and they should mark an important stage toward complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament.  The Conference should as rapidly as possible produce a work programme calling for the opening of negotiations on the FMCT. 


Within the context of the plenary, progress could be made on the following issues, said Mr. Faessler.  First, the terms of the mandate for negotiations on the FMCT did not reference reductions in existing military stocks.   Stocks should be the subject of a separate agreement, yet nothing prevented States from proceeding to eliminate their stocks independently, in an irreversible manner.  Second, although it had not been specified in the mandate, the ban under the FMCT should also apply to fissile material produced for uses other than nuclear weapons.  Third, one of the major objectives of the negotiations should concern verification.  Fourth, in order to limit the risk of an illegal diversion of fissile material, an FMCT treaty should call for a range of measures and best practices designed to ensure the protection of facilities.  Fifth, while the International Atomic Energy Agency should bring its indispensable know-how to the system of verification, the possibility of that system being institutionally autonomous should not be ruled out.  Sixth, the modalities for entry into force of the treaty should ensure its implementation in all countries that possessed facilities for the enrichment of uranium and the treatment of fissile materials. 


ANDRA FILIP (Romania) said he wished to report on the results of the Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Small Arms Document and the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its aspects, held in Bucharest from 24 to 26 February, organized by the Government of Romania and co-sponsored by the Governments of Canada and Italy.  One of the main objectives was to provide a substantial regional contribution in view of the upcoming First United Nations Biennial Meeting on the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action, focusing on the relevant fields of marking/tracing and import/export/transit controls of small arms and light weapons.


There was high political interest shown in the event.  The first day of the seminar highlighted the link between transnational organized crime and small arms and light weapons. The discussions of the second day focused on different aspects related to export controls, including the regulation of brokering activity.  The third day was dedicated to the exploration of ways to approach the marking/tracing aspects within the domain of export controls of small arms and light weapons.


Among the recommendations of the meeting were calls for OSCE participating States to sign and ratify the United Nations Firearms Protocol; for these States to involve their Parliamentarians in supporting international and regional efforts for curbing the proliferation of such weapons; for exploration of the feasibility of agreeing on a common format for national reporting on such weapons to both the OSCE and the United Nations; for establishment of national points of contact in OSCE participating States; for enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and the OSCE in tracing illicit flows of such weapons; for development within the framework of the United Nations of an international instrument on the marking and tracing of such weapons; and for the development of a regulatory system for brokering in such weapons based upon the recommendations of the Lancaster House Conference.  More details on the meeting and its other recommendations could be found in the final report of the seminar.


DAVID BROUCHER (United Kingdom) said that a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) would constitute a valuable contribution to international security by introducing a worldwide, legally binding and verifiable ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices.  It would represent an advance on present situations in which only some States had declared voluntary moratoria on such production and those that had were mostly unverified.  An FMCT would also make other measures to address stocks of fissile material more meaningful, because the benefit of such measures would always be questionable so long as there was no ban on future production.  The FMCT was an essential basis for global nuclear disarmament, which would never be achieved without first having verification arrangements of fissile material production facilities.


The commitment to negotiate an FMCT, said Mr. Broucher, had been endorsed by all the delegations present in the room and a mandate existed for its negotiations.  The United Kingdom remained ready to begin negotiations and called upon all others to join.  The United Kingdom believed that the negotiations should properly take place in the Conference on Disarmament, including the participation of non-nuclear weapons States, as the discussion would also involve safeguards and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The option of negotiating in informal plenary sessions should be rejected; work on the FMCT would require the involvement of experts.  Moreover, progress on the FMCT negotiations should not be held up in trying to obtain negotiating mandates for other subjects.


Trying to include negotiations on cutting stocks of existing of fissile materials would complicate an otherwise simple issue, said Mr. Broucher.  The most effective FMCT would cover the five Nuclear Weapons States and those outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Within those States, stocks varied greatly and even the definition of "existing weapons-usable fissile material", which excluded material in weapons and material stockpiled for weapons use, covered a significant variation between States in the size and nature of their stockpiles.  Furthermore, the amount of information publicly available about such holdings differed, as did estimated amounts of stocks in existence.  A difference in the proportion of stocks outside any form of safeguards or verification and the extent to which those stocks were the subjects of disposition plans had also been noted.


Stocks should not be ignored, said Mr. Broucher; however, other approaches would be more productive in dealing with them.  As proposed in the recent South African paper, material declared excess to military requirements could be transferred irreversibly to peaceful purposes, as had been begun in Russia and the United States with Russia-United States Plutonium Agreement, which would dispose of a total of 68 tons of plutonium.  The focus of the FMCT negotiations should be a straightforward ban on future production.  It was much more effective to mop the floor after one had first shut off the water tap.


The United Kingdom had declared a moratorium on the production of fissile material for weapons purposes in 1995, said Mr. Broucher.  Moreover, British production facilities were subject to safeguards.  The United Kingdom called upon those that had not yet done so to declare similar moratoria, which should be open-ended and unconditional, to make the best contribution to an improved international security environment. 


ALJAZ GOSNAR (Slovenia) said he wished to report on two topics, the first of which was the holding of the United Nations -- OSCE Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects in South Eastern Europe, which took place from 10 to 12 March at Brdo pri Kranju.  The meeting was co-organized by the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs, the Conflict Prevention Centre of the OSCE, and the Government of Slovenia, and was aimed at fostering the implementation of international standards on the illicit trade in South East Europe.  Topics addressed included stocktaking, export control procedures, weapons collection and public awareness, stockpile security and management, border management and policing, international cooperation and assistance, weapons collection and destruction, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and general aspects.  It was a common conclusion among the participants that the problems posed were multi-dimensional and interlinked and required a comprehensive approach.  The meeting also provided an opportunity for Slovenia to present its initiative of establishing the Regional Contact Point for Small Arms and Light Weapons, which could be an effective arrangement complementing the existing mechanisms for cooperation within the region.


The second topic was the destruction of the last anti-personnel landmines of the Slovene Army in accordance with the Ottawa Convention.  The event took place on 25 March, where the last 200 anti-personnel landmines were destroyed.  In all a total of 171,898 mines of different types had been destroyed by Slovenia to meet its obligations under the Ottawa Convention.  Mr. Gosnar said he also wished to mention here the Slovenia-based International Trust Fund for De-mining, which after five years had developed into an exceptionally successful and internationally acknowledged institution.


ERIKAS PETRIKAS (Lithuania) said that on 25 March 2003, the Lithuanian Parliament had ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, and Lithuania would proceed with the final obligations necessary to become a full party to the Convention.  It was worth recalling that on 2 July 2002, the Lithuanian Government had submitted an initial transparency measure report under Article 7 of the treaty.  Lithuania was very pleased that other countries not yet parties to the Convention were following this example.  He reaffirmed Lithuania’s willingness to join efforts aimed at securing the successful implementation and strengthening of the Ottawa Convention.


SULEIMAN SARRA (Syrian Arab Republic) said it was important at this difficult time to respect international legality, especially as regarded nuclear disarmament.  The world was witnessing now an aggression war against Iraq that was unjust.  Supposedly the war was for disarmament.  Yet Israel had a stockpile of unacceptable weapons and little was being done to report on, inspect, or eliminate those weapons.  Syria expressed its very grave concern and its regrets about the doubts that were being shown against the Security Council and the United Nations by those who had been unable to impose their will on the United Nations.  Since most countries were opposed to force being used on this occasion, why was force being used?  Under these circumstances, what was the Security Council for, if not to reflect the international consensus that a peaceful solution should be found to the situation in Iraq?


The current war had nothing to do with international law; it was the law of the jungle.  Thousands of innocent Iraqis were being killed.  How could the US ignore the rights of the Palestinian people while acting this way in Iraq?


KUNIKO INOGUCHI (Japan) thanked the United Kingdom for its mention of tomorrow’s forthcoming seminar, which would begin at 10 a.m. in the Council Chamber.  This seminar had been co-organized with Australia and UNIDIR.


J. SHERWOOD McGINNIS (United States) said regrettably, the intervention by Syria was one in which a fair number of half-truths and untruths were contained.  Regrettably, the international community needed to act because after 12 years of lack of cooperation and dozens of United Nations resolutions and the sending of hundreds of weapons inspectors, Iraq had failed to disarm.  The only reason Security Council resolution 1441 was passed, and the only reason Iraq allowed inspectors back onto its territory, was the threat of the use of force.  The cooperation mentioned by Syria on the part of Iraq, moreover, was very grudgingly given, and very circumspect.  The US had worked within the United Nations on this subject for 12 years, and had sponsored and supported a number of resolutions.  The action now under way in Iraq was based on former Security Council resolutions.


NAWFAL AL-BASRI (Iraq) said the Iraqi Government had cooperated with the weapons inspectors and had given them every possibility to complete their mission.  Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix and others had confirmed this in official statements.  Iraq had cooperated with international organizations because it was concerned with respecting international resolutions.  It had authorized the over-flight of its territory and the destruction of unauthorized Salmud II missiles.  The weapons inspectors had asked for additional time to complete their jobs and had indicated that there was effective cooperation from Iraq.  Thus, Iraq had been surprised by the United States’ declaration that international resolutions had not been respected.  The United States had launched a war which had not been internationally authorized.  The United States administration had taken neither the opinion of numerous countries condemning the war nor international public opinion into account.


This was not a clean war, said Mr. Al-Basri.  The suffering of the Iraqi people could be witnessed on a daily basis as facilities, including electrical and drinking water installations, were destroyed.  The United States’ real objective was to destroy Iraq; the United States had a modern military arsenal capable of targeting objectives, yet still there had been civilian deaths.  How could one talk about international legitimacy when the American bombing attacks killed children under the age of ten?  The people of Iraq would not welcome the coalition soldiers with happiness, as the United States had thought.  The people of Iraq had shown fierce opposition in the face of aggression.


The United Nations should intervene to put an end to this illegitimate aggression, which flagrantly violated its Charter, said Mr. Al-Basri.  The United States’ actions enshrined the law of the jungle and scorn for international legitimacy.  The objectives of the US were now clear; the US wanted to bring an end to the Iraqi regime and to control Iraq’s natural resources, as well as those of the whole region.  This war was being waged against the Arab world as a whole.  The United States had allocated to itself the right to "liberate" Iraq, yet it was killing women, children and old people.  The world today demanded respect for international legitimacy and law; allowing States to impose their policies through the threat and use of war contributed to instability and chaos, which threatened international peace and security. 


MR. SARRA (Syrian Arab Republic) said he did not agree with what the United States had just said; what the US had said did not square with the truth.


MR. BROUCHER (United Kingdom) said the actions the United Kingdom was taking along with the United States had been undertaken only after much thought, and the United Kingdom was convinced that these actions were in keeping with international law and Security Council resolutions. Iraq clearly could have avoided this situation if it had cooperated with Security Council resolutions.  It had not, and

Iraq had a history of using weapons of mass destruction against its neighbours and its own people, and so something had to be done.  The best message the Conference could send to the world would be to deal with its own agenda.  That was what the Conference should do.


MR. AL-BASRI (Iraq) said the United Kingdom had alleged that the current situation in Iraq was the result of non-compliance with international resolutions.  But what had happened to those international resolutions designed to protect the Palestinian people?  Why were the UK and the US not equally severe with Israel?  Those resolutions condemning Israel had met with a favorable international response, yet nothing was done to implement them.  What were the international standards referred to by the United Kingdom when Iraq was condemned and international resolutions on Israel ignored?


RICHARD FALLON, acting President (Ireland), said that at its current rate, a three-year period would pass between now and the Conference’s 1,000th plenary, and it was worth asking if by then the group would have agreed on a programme of work.  A number of subjects had been mentioned today that were encouraging:  landmine destruction and small-arms-trafficking control, for example.  He asked delegations to consider such aspects of disarmament proactively during the intersessional period, so that there could be a meaningful resumption of the Conference in mid May.  The next plenary would be held on Tuesday, 15 May, at 10 a.m.


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