Press Release



The Security Council met this morning to consider “the situation between Iraq and Kuwait” and to hear the draft work programme of Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).

Presentation of Work Programme

HANS BLIX, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, said it might seem strange that he was presenting a draft work programme only after having performed inspections for three and a half months.  There were good reasons, however, why the Council wanted to give the inspections some time after their start to prepare the work programme.  During the months of the build-up of his resources in Iraq, Larnaca and New York, and of inspections in Iraq, he had learned a great deal that was useful in drafting the work programme and in selecting the key remaining disarmament tasks.  It would have been difficult to draft it without that knowledge and practical experience.

He said that the time lines established in resolution 1284 (1999) had been understood to mean that the work programme was to be presented for the Council’s approval at the latest on 27 March.  In order to meet the wishes of the members, he had made the draft work programme available on Monday.  On that same day, he was constrained, together with other United Nations units, to order the withdrawal of all inspectors and other international staff from Iraq.

“I naturally feel sadness that three and a half months of work carried out in Iraq have not brought the assurances needed about the absence of weapons of mass destruction or other proscribed items in Iraq, that no more time is available for our inspections and that armed action now seems imminent”, he said.

At the same time, he continued, he felt “a sense of relief” that it was possible to withdraw yesterday all United Nations international staff, including that of UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The Iraqi authorities gave full cooperation to achieve that and the withdrawal to Larnaca took place in a safe and orderly manner.  Some sensitive equipment was also taken to Larnaca, while other equipment was left and the offices sealed.  Some inspection staff would remain for a short time in Larnaca to prepare inspection reports.  Others who had come from the roster of trained staff would go home to their previous positions and could be available again, if the need arose.

Turning to the draft work programme, he said he was aware of ideas that had been advanced about specific groups of disarmament issues, which could be tackled and solved within specific time lines.  The programme did not propose such an approach, which would have aimed, for example, at addressing and resolving the issues of anthrax and VX in March and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs) in April.  To date, he had worked broadly and had not neglected any identified disarmament issues.  It was evidently possible for the Council, however, to single out a few issues for resolution within a specific time, just as the draft programme selected 12 key tasks, progress on which could have had an impact on the Council’s assessment of cooperation of Iraq under resolution 1284 (1999).  Whatever approach was followed, results would depend on Iraq’s active cooperation in substance.

He noted that, under resolution 1284 (1999), UNMOVIC’s work programme was to be submitted to the Council for approval.  What was drafted and prepared for implementation by a large staff of UNMOVIC inspectors and other resources deployed to Iraq, however, would seem to have only limited practical relevance in the current situation.  The UNMOVIC was a subsidiary organ of the Council.  Until the Council took a new decision regarding the role and functions of the Commission, the previous resolutions remained valid to the extent practicable.  It was evidently for the Council to consider the next steps.

In its further deliberations, he said he hoped the Council would be aware that it had in UNMOVIC staff a unique body of international experts who owed their allegiance to the United Nations and who were trained as inspectors in the field of weapons of mass destruction.  While the IAEA had a large department of skilled nuclear inspectors and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had a large staff of skilled chemical weapons inspectors, no other international organizations had trained inspectors in the field of biological weapons and missiles.  There was also in the secretariat of UNMOVIC staff familiar with and trained in the analysis, both of specific issues and in the broad questions of proliferation of mass destruction weapons.  With increasing attention being devoted to the proliferation of those weapons, that capability might be valuable to the Council.

The representative of the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), GUSTAVO ZLAUVINEN, informed the Council that Mr. ElBaradei had transmitted the work programme of the Agency today, in accordance with paragraph 7 of Security Council resolution 1284.  That programme was self-explanatory, and the Director-General would be available at any time in the future to discuss it, should the Council decide to do so.


JOSCHKA FISCHER, Deputy Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said that the world was facing imminent war in Iraq.  The Council could not remain silent.  The developments of the last few hours had radically changed the international situation and had brought the work of the United Nations to a standstill.  Nevertheless, he thanked Dr. Blix for briefing the Council on the work programme.  He fully supported Dr. Blix’s approach, even under the current circumstances.  The work programme had provided clear and convincing guidelines on how to disarm Iraq peacefully in a short period of time.  It was possible to disarm Iraq peacefully.  Peaceful means had not been exhausted.

For that reason, he emphatically rejected the impending war.  Germany had collaborated with France and Russia to put forward proposals for a disarmament regime with a clear deadline.  Others had also submitted proposals until the last moment.  During the last few days, it had been possible to move closer to a common objective –- to counter the risks posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.  Especially in recent weeks, considerable progress had been made, including with the destruction of the Al-Samoud missiles.  Iraq’s readiness to cooperate was unsatisfactory, hesitant and slow.  Everyone had agreed on that.  However, could that be regarded as grounds for war?  Iraq was meeting more and more the demands in Council resolutions.  Why should we now abandon plans for inspections?

In that connection, he made the following three points.  First, the Council had not failed.  “We must counter that myth.”  The Council had made available the instruments to disarm Iraq peacefully.  The Council was not responsible for what was happening outside the United Nations.  Secondly, under the current circumstances, the policy of military intervention had no credibility.  “It does not have the support of our people.”  It would not have taken much to safeguard the unity of the Council.  There was no basis in the Charter for a regime change with military means.  Thirdly, it was necessary to preserve the inspection regime and to endorse the work programme because both would be needed after the end of military action.  Resolutions 1284 and 1441 were still in force, even if some adjustments were needed.

He was convinced that the United Nations and the Council must continue to play the central role in the Iraqi conflict.  The United Nations was the key institution for the preservation of peace and security and for reconciliation.  The Council bore the primary responsibility for world peace and international security.  The negotiations on the Iraq crisis had shown how relevant and indispensable the peacemaking role of the United Nations was.  The United Nations was the only appropriate framework for peaceful disarmament.  Disarmament wars were not the way forward.

He was deeply concerned over the humanitarian consequences of the war in Iraq.  Everything possible must be done to avert a humanitarian disaster.  A large majority of people in Germany and in Europe were greatly troubled by war in Iraq.  That continent had experienced war only too often.  War was a great tragedy for those affected and could only be the last resort when all other peaceful means were exhausted.  Germany had accepted the resort to war in two occasions, when that was the last resort –- in Kosovo and Afghanistan.  Today, however, he did not believe that there was no alternative to war.  Iraq could be disarmed by peaceful means.  He would seize any opportunity to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis.

DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, said war could be only the last resort, with collective responsibility being the rule.  “Whatever our aversion for Saddam Hussein’s cruel regime, that holds true for Iraq and for all the crises that we will have to confront together”, he said.

He then thanked the inspectors, saying that their programme was a reminder that there was still a clear and credible prospect for disarming Iraq peacefully.  Today’s report confirmed what everybody in the room knew:  “Yes, the inspections are producing tangible results.  Yes, they do offer the prospect of effective disarmament through peaceful means and in shorter time frames.”  The path the States had mapped together in the context of resolution 1441 was still available.  In spite of the fact that it had been interrupted, it would have to resume as soon as possible.  When time came, it would be necessary to complete the Council’s knowledge about Iraq’s programmes and finish disarming Iraq.  The contribution of the inspectors would be decisive at that time.

“Make no mistake about it”, he continued.  “The choice is indeed between two visions of the world.”  To those who chose to use force and thought they could resolve the world’s complexity through swift preventive action, France offered in contrast resolute action over time.  In international relations, nothing lasting could be built without dialogue and respect for others, without exigency and abiding by principles, especially for the democracies that must set the example.  To ignore that was to run the risk of creating misunderstanding, radicalization and spiralling violence.  That was even more true of the Middle East, an area of fractures and ancient conflicts, where stability must be a major objective.

He further expressed regret that those who hoped to eliminate the dangers of proliferation through armed intervention in Iraq were depriving themselves of a key tool for resolving other crises of the same type.  The Iraqi crisis allowed the international community to craft an instrument, through the inspections regime, which was unprecedented and could serve as an example.  “Why, on this basis, not envision establishing an innovative, permanent structure, a disarmament body under the aegis of the United Nations?” he asked.

To those who thought that the scourge of terrorism would be eradicated through the case of Iraq, “we say they run the risk of failing in their objectives”, he added.  An outbreak of force in such an unstable area could only exacerbate the tensions and fractures of which the terrorists fed.  Over and above the division, in the face of those threats, the international community had a collective responsibility to recover its unity.  Together, countries had the duty of healing the wounds of war, providing, as a matter of urgency, the required humanitarian assistance to Iraq.  The Secretary-General had already begun to mobilize various United Nations agencies.  France would take full part in the collective effort to assist the Iraqi people.  The “oil-for-food” programme must continue, with necessary adjustments, and he expected to receive the Secretary-General’s proposals in that regard.

Afterwards, it would be necessary to build peace, he said.  No country by itself had the means to build Iraq’s future.  In particular, no State could claim the necessary legitimacy.  Only the United Nations had the legal and moral authority for such an undertaking.  That action must be guided by the principles of Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity, as well as preservation of its sovereignty.  It was also up to the United Nations to set out the framework for the country’s economic reconstruction, which needed to be transparent and allow for the development of the country’s resources for the benefit of the Iraqis themselves.

It was necessary to remain constantly mobilized, he continued.  In that spirit, France renewed its call for the heads of State and government to meet in the Security Council to respond to the major challenges confronting them.  “Let us intensify our fight against terrorism.  Let us fight mercilessly against its networks with all the economic, juridical and political weapons available to us.  Let us give new impetus to the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”, he said.  France had already proposed that heads of State and government meet on the sidelines of the next General Assembly to define together the new priorities for action.  It was necessary to recover the initiative in the regional conflicts, in particular, the Israeli-Palestinian one.

Faced with the new world, the international community should be guided by the principles of respect for law, defence of freedom and justice, and the spirit of dialogue and tolerance.  The United Nations had never been so necessary.  It was up to that body to harness all the resolve to meet the challenges, as it was the place where international rules and legitimacy were founded and because it spoke in the name of peoples.  “Confronted with a world in crisis, we have a moral and political obligation to restore the threads of hope and unity”, he said.  The judgement of future generations would depend on the international community’s capacity to meet that great challenge –- in furtherance of its values, its common destiny and peace.

IGOR S. IVANOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that the Security Council, by unanimously adopting resolution 1441 (2002), took upon itself a serious responsibility to conclude the process of disarming Iraq.  He had no doubt that UNMOVIC and the IAEA, which had deployed in Iraq an effectively functioning inspection machinery, were in a position to carry out their tasks within a realistic time frame.  The reports submitted by the chief inspectors had convincingly showed that the inspectors had succeeded in achieving tangible results.  It was fundamentally important that, thanks to the unity of the world community and the pressure brought to bear on the Iraqi authorities, including a military presence in the region, Baghdad had fulfilled virtually all the conditions set by the inspectors and had not put up any serious obstacles.

He said that the inspectors, if given the opportunity to continue their work, had everything necessary to conclude the disarmament process of Baghdad peacefully.  Therefore, the Security Council, as the body which bore primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security, had fully discharged its obligations by ensuring the deployment to Iraq of international inspectors and by establishing the necessary conditions for their activities.  Any settlement of the issue required the parties to return the issue to the Council, which alone could deal with a comprehensive settlement.  The Council should express the highest regard for the excellent work of the international inspectors, and it should approve their reports, which clearly set forth the current status of prohibited arms programmes in Iraq. 

Because of the difficult situation prevailing around Iraq, he said the Council should take note of the Secretary-General’s decision to withdraw the inspectors because of a threat to their safety.  Since the mandates of UNMOVIC and the IAEA had not been fully implemented, the work of the inspectors in Iraq was not concluded, but merely suspended.  The Council must, with a view to the further development of the situation, come back to the issue of the continuation of that work, pursuant to resolutions 1284 (1999) and 1441 (2002).  Not one of those decisions had authorized the right to use force against Iraq outside the United Nations Charter.  Not one of them had authorized the violent overthrow of the leadership of a sovereign State.

He said that such actions, if they were taken, would not help to strengthen the unity of the international community, at a time when the world sorely needed solidarity and joint efforts to repel such a real and generally shared threat as international terrorism.  Russia was convinced of a need to do everything possible, in order, as soon as possible, to overcome the present crisis and keep the Iraq problem within the framework of a political settlement on the solid basis of the United Nations Charter and international law.  Only then would it be possible to ensure conditions for the continued effective multilateral cooperation needed to combat global threats and challenges while retaining the central role of the Security Council.

If today he really had indisputable facts demonstrating that, from the territory of Iraq, there was a direct threat to the security of the United States, then Russia, without any hesitation would be prepared to use all the means available under the United Nations Charter to eliminate such a threat.  However, the Security Council today was not in possession of such facts.  That was why he preferred a political settlement relying on the activities of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, which enjoyed the complete trust of the international community.

FAROUK AL-SHARA’, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, said that within hours a war of aggression would be unleashed in Iraq. Emotions were running high, as high as the temperature there.  The war was unfair and unjustified.  It would come back to haunt those that promoted it.  The war was not waged for a reasonable, let alone just, cause.  If war was to be waged to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, then what could be said about Israel, which had a stockpile of such weapons, especially nuclear, unparalleled by some major Powers.

Syria had voted in favour of resolution 1441, prompted by its belief to support international will to find a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis and disarm Iraq peacefully.  The inspection processes had yielded tangible results due to Iraqi cooperation with inspectors.  Inspectors had stated that they needed only a couple of months to complete their task.  War was hours away.  He was concerned by some who called into question the role of the Council and the United Nations, when they had not succeeded to impose their will on the United Nations.

The majority of the Council, he said, had rejected the adoption of a resolution authorizing the use of force.  Resolution 1441 did not authorize circumventing that resolution and striking Iraq without going back to the Council.  Operative paragraph 12 had stipulated that the Council be convened to discuss necessary steps.  Ignoring that paragraph and suspending the work of the inspectors had clarified that the objective was not disarming Iraq but occupation and usurpation of Iraqi natural resources.

He categorically rejected the feverish calls for war against Iraq, in the same way it had rejected in 1990 the invasion of Kuwait.  He saw no moral or legal justification for the imminent military action.  Hadn’t the inspectors confirmed that Iraq had cooperated with them ever since the adoption of resolution 1441?  Hadn’t we seen the destruction of the Al-Samoud missiles?  How many believed Iraq posed a danger to the security of the United States and the American people?  Over 150 other countries also posed a threat to the United States; it was not Iraq alone.  There were sleeper or active Al Qaeda cells in various countries, which was known to the United States.  Some of those countries also had weapons of mass destruction.

The United States, he noted, had the biggest arsenal of such weapons.  He hoped that the option of peace was still available and urged those who were concerned to put an end to the machine of war to save the lives of millions of innocent Iraqis.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the Council was meeting at a momentous and perhaps tragic moment in world history, when a peaceful road to resolving the Iraqi problem was about to end.  As the Secretary-General had recently stated, war was always a catastrophe.  It had been his hope that the implementation of the Council resolution for Iraqi disarmament could be achieved through peaceful means. Unfortunately, in its detailed discussions over past weeks, the Council had been unable to find convergence of views amongst its members. Pakistan had consistently advocated a peaceful solution.  It believed that every peaceful venue should have been exhausted before resorting to the use of force.

The inspectors had done their work in the most professional and objective manner, and the Council owed them a debt of gratitude, he continued.  Having studied the programme of work and the key disarmament tasks presented today, he believed that they formed a useful basis for completion of the work in Iraq in compliance with relevant resolutions, had Iraq’s full compliance been secured on time.  It was regrettable that UNMOVIC and the IAEA would now obviously find it difficult to continue their work.  Resolution 1441 remained in force, however. 

He understood the need to withdraw all UNMOVIC and IAEA personnel from Iraq to ensure continued security and safety of their personnel, he said.  The Secretary-General had notified the Council that the mandates of the inspectors had been suspended de facto.  His delegation would await the time when the conditions would allow the inspectors to resume their task.  He presumed that the present structures would be kept intact.

He went on to say that in the past weeks, the world’s attention had been riveted to the Council’s work.  In Pakistan’s view, despite its inability to reach consensus, the Council remained relevant.  It must uphold international legality, and it must do so equitably and consistently.  It must also seek implementation of all its resolutions, including those relating to Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir.  The Council was the embodiment of the humanity’s hope for peace. 

The changed circumstances would undoubtedly reorder the international community’s priorities, he added.  Today, it was important to decide how to address the humanitarian challenges in the days to come.  The suspension of the oil-for-food programme and the beginning of hostilities could lead to a humanitarian crisis, the dimensions of which were yet unclear.  Pakistan would do everything possible to ameliorate the suffering of the people of Iraq.  The time and space for diplomacy never ended.  Even once the guns spoke, the duty of the Council to restore peace and security and prevent suffering of the people in Iraq and in the region would not end.  Neither would its responsibility to ensure stability of the sensitive region of the Middle East.  Instead, those responsibilities would become more acute.

ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said he deplored that it had not been possible to arrive at a decision to continue disarming Iraq.  Those differences, however, should not be considered an obstacle to the Council in shouldering its responsibilities.  As President Vincente Fox had said in his message to the nation on 17 March, Mexico upheld the multilateral path to the resolution of conflict and deployed the path of war.  The United Nations Charter says the use of force was a last resort and could only be justified when all other paths had failed to produce a result.  What was at stake was the very manner in which humankind was to handle such matters as disarmament, especially of weapons of mass destruction.  Mexico, devoted to the principles of peace, believed deeply in the United Nations and the peaceful coexistence of millions of human beings.

He said that, throughout the process of disarming Iraq since the adoption of resolution 1441 (2002), Mexico had expressed its trust in UNMOVIC and the IAEA.  That was the most robust, dynamic and effective effort ever attempted at peaceful disarmament.  With that instrument and its mandate, the United Nations could have brought about the peaceful disarmament of Iraq.  It was no time for recriminations.  Now was the time for the Council to analyse the tasks that lay ahead.  That must be done with a collective responsibility and a clear understanding of the forthcoming challenges, first among them, coping with the humanitarian situation in Iraq and, in the event of war, the country’s reconstruction.  The Council should take action immediately to restore the mandates that had been suspended.

JOHN NEGROPONTE (United States) commended UNMOVIC and the IAEA, as well as the inspectors, Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei, for their efforts to implement the inspection regime under difficult circumstances.  Regrettably, the discussion of the topic under today’s agenda -- the draft programme of work for the inspections -- was incompatible with the current reality on the ground.  The work programme was predicated on the assumption that Iraq would provide active cooperation.  No realistic programme of work could be developed pursuant to resolution 1284 while Iraq failed to cooperate fully, actively and unconditionally.  The fact of the matter was that the situation on the ground would change and so would the nature of the remaining disarmament tasks.  The draft programme of work was out of touch with the reality on the ground and could not lead to the results that the Council had demanded, namely, the peaceful disarmament of Iraq.

Under the current circumstances, there was no choice but to set aside that work programme, he said.  However, that did not mean that the Council could not return to it at some time in the future.  In the meantime, the Council would be faced with the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people.  He shared the concern expressed for meeting the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.  That was an issue to which his Government had dedicated significant resources.  The Government had planned for all United Nations development agencies to be prepared to administer necessary relief as soon as possible.  It was fielding the largest ever disaster relief team.

The United States, he continued, had contributed over $60 million to over a dozen United Nations agencies, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO), as well as a multitude of non-governmental organizations.  As the United States increased its contributions, he urged other donors to contribute to those critical efforts.  He recognized the importance of keeping the oil-for-food programme running to meet the humanitarian needs of Iraq.  He was prepared to present soon a draft humanitarian resolution to ensure the continuity of the programme.  He trusted that other Council members shared his objectives and that of the Secretary-General to resume the flow of humanitarian goods through the programme as soon as possible.

MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said the Council should continue to play its role as a body responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security.  Unable to find a compromise solution, however, it had found itself at a crossroads.  To the last moment, some had hoped for a miracle.  Who was to blame? Each and every one, and all together.  Since all were wrong to some extent, all were also right.  Retrospectively, that was the advantage of resolution 1441, but it was also its weakness.  The factors that escaped the Council’s attention ultimately became the failure of diplomatic efforts.

With yesterday’s departure of the inspectors, the peaceful process had come to an end, at least temporarily, he continued.  Cameroon paid homage to the inspectors, who had fully justified the trust placed in them.  Despite the suspension, he was convinced that, at some point, they would be entrusted with a new task.

Despite the exceptional circumstances, his delegation had carefully examined the programme of work prepared by UNMOVIC, he said.  It could be a good basis for future work.  As for the key tasks for disarmament, even while there had been some progress, a great deal remained to be done.  He did not see how the inspectors could have completed their tasks without unconditional, full and active cooperation by Iraq.  Today, the Council found itself in different circumstances.  Of course, he would be happy if something unexpected happened by the end of the day to restore his optimism.

Now, it was necessary to think about the measures to minimize the negative impact on the population, in particular, women and children, he said.  He understood the decision to remove all United Nations staff from Iraq, but he was concerned over the impact of the de facto suspension of the oil-for-food programme.  The sanctions committee should meet as soon as possible at the level of permanent representatives to consider emergency measures in response to the humanitarian situation in Iraq.  He hoped trust would soon be restored among the Council members, and the differences, however deep, would be just a temporary episode.  The United Nations was the only framework to protect peace.

INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said the inspections had been suspended, for which Saddam Hussein bore sole responsibility through his pattern of deceit and his choice to openly choose the path of confrontation.  He alone was ultimately responsible for the strong increase in diplomatic, political and military tension over the past few days, and he alone would be responsible for confronting those serious consequences, to which references had been made in resolution 1441 (2002).  The work programme presented for approval was part of the paradigm established under resolution 1284 (1999), but through the unanimous adoption of resolution 1441 (2002), that paradigm had changed.

He said his country had striven to contribute to a peaceful solution of the Iraqi crisis.  Along with the United States and the United Kingdom, Spain had presented a draft resolution designed to ratchet up the pressure on the Iraqi regime.  It offered Saddam Hussein an additional opportunity to take the strategic decision to collaborate fully with the inspectors.  He understood that a new resolution could be desirable politically, but it was not necessary from the legal point of view.  Indeed, legitimate recourse to the use of force had been based on the sequential logic of previous resolutions, adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter.  Iraq had ignored the demands of the international community.  It also continued to have relationships with terrorists and recently had boasted about training suicide bombers.  Nor had it returned the Kuwaiti prisoners of war or produced a clear, complete and credible report on the whereabouts of its mass destruction weapons.

It would have been preferable to meet today with a different scenario, namely, to adopt the work programmes of UNMOVIC and the IAEA and to take note of their implementation on the basis of full cooperation by the Iraqi regime, and to set new time lines.  But, deplorably, that scenario was not to be.  The commendable work of the inspectors was part of a system that had demonstrated its effectiveness in enormously diverse countries and circumstances, but that system had always depended on the full, active and prompt cooperation of the subject of inspections.  In this case, that subject had, for 12 years, withheld that cooperation.  He was concerned about the humanitarian dimension, for which measures must be taken.  He supported the initiative to introduce a draft resolution on that question.

GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said that the Council had had a “bitter” examination of the work programme presented by the inspectors.  It was only “bitter” when what might have been was peace.  He had hoped that the inspections could have been carried out.  He was convinced that the programme of inspections, strengthened as it was, proactive and investigative, and accompanied by robust military pressure, was capable of achieving the international community’s objective -- the peaceful disarmament of Iraq.  That had led his delegation to, even to the last minute, submit proposals to achieve consensus.

The Council, he said, should have persisted in the task of inspections.  Inspections should have been more incisive.  The Council should have cultivated a convergence of perceptions, as the consequences of the current situation might be serious for humanity.  The Iraqi regime never completely understood how far it was from international opinion nor the price its people would have to pay.  The Council was not able to muster the required flexibility to clearly define a path of collective action that would allow it to discharge the responsibility entrusted to it under the Charter.

Today, the inspectors should be commended for the part they had played.  He paid tribute to Drs. Blix and ElBaradei and their teams.  Nothing could be more serious than to suspend the process of inspections, which could create doubts about the validity of the inspection process.  He took note of the work programme, prepared pursuant to resolution 1284, and emphasized the validity of the inspection process undertaken by the United Nations.  In the weeks to come, his country would tackle the challenge of coping with the “burden of horror” that the war would bring down on millions of Iraqis.  The Council would have to work untiringly to protect lives and restore the peace. 

HELDER LUCAS (Angola) expressed his gratitude to the inspectors, saying that their commitment to the implementation of their mandate deserved the Council’s recognition.  He deplored the fact that the inspectors had been unable to fulfil their tasks and that Iraq had failed to convince the international community that it was making genuine efforts to disarm.  In the diplomatic process, Angola had consistently defended a peaceful solution and reiterated that the use of force should be the last resort.  It had also advocated safeguarding the primacy of the Council as a body responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security.  It had defended the Council’s unity.

Now that the diplomatic solutions seemed exhausted and war seemed inevitable, the main concern of his Government was the humanitarian situation in Iraq, he said.  The international community should mobilize all its efforts and resources to assist the civilian population of Iraq when the crisis was over.  The Council should continue to play its role in facing the immense tasks of the post-war period for reconstruction of Iraq.

WANG YINGFAN (China) said that UNMOVIC and the IAEA had striven to submit their work programme as soon as possible and had done so today ahead of schedule.  But, due to the rapidly developing situation, efforts had still fallen behind.  Inspections had been suspended and the inspectors were headed home.  Despite that, however, today’s meeting still held special significance, as it demonstrated that the great importance the Council had attached to the inspections.  The work programme included key remaining disarmament tasks, and related questions to be answered and obligations to be implemented.  That programme, if implemented, would surely make the inspections more organized, more targeted and help enhance their effectiveness.

He said that, in light of the recent progress, he believed that it was possible to achieve the goal of disarming Iraq peacefully.  No one should put an end to the road to peaceful disarmament.  Nevertheless, the situation in Iraq was worrying.  He expressed his utmost regret and disappoint that war might break out at any moment and the utmost concern for the Iraqi people and peace and security in the region.  China had always pursued a foreign policy of peace.  No matter where conflict emerged, it would do everything possible to avert war so long as there remained a glimmer of hope for achieving peace.  He was ready, together with the Council and the majority of Member States, to assist the Council in shouldering its responsibilities.

STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) confirmed his support for the two inspection teams and Drs. Blix and ElBaradei.  The suspension of the inspectors’ work should not call into question the usefulness of inspections, in general.  Inspections would remain a necessary tool to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  It was clear that inspections were an effective tool, only with the existence of full and active cooperation of the government concerned.  He was grateful for the submission of the work programme on the remaining disarmament tasks.

He deeply regretted that diplomatic efforts for peaceful disarmament had not yielded the desired results.  Throughout recent months, Bulgaria had defended a clear-cut position in the Council, the objective of which was the full implementation of resolution 1441.  It had done its utmost to find a peaceful solution, with a view to preserving unity in the Council.  Now that political opportunities had been exhausted, he confirmed that, in refusing to cooperate fully with the inspectors, Iraq had failed in using its last chance in implementing Council resolutions, particularly 1441.

He supported the decision of the Secretary-General to withdraw all United Nations staff from Iraq to ensure their safety.  He regretted that differences as to the means and timetable for disarmament had not enabled the Council to take a united approach.  Dialogue could be fully restored and unity regained.  It was now necessary to focus on the most urgent matter -– the humanitarian situation in Iraq.  Deeply committed to multilateralism, he was convinced that the Council would maintain its role in preserving international peace and security.  The Council should play an important role in rebuilding Iraq in the post-conflict period.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) emphasized his country’s deep regret  that the Council had been unable to agree on the way forward in Iraq.  In that connection, it was important not to forget that what had brought the Council to this point was the failure of Iraq to fulfil its obligations under relevant Council resolutions.  If Iraq had made genuine efforts to disarm, in particular under resolution 1441, which had provided it with a final opportunity to do so, “we would not be where we are”, he added. 

He pointed out that his country’s decisions on the matter would be in accordance with international law and based on the decisions of the Council.  The United Nations had a central role to play in Iraq and on issues associated with it.

On 17 March, the United Kingdom had expressed its interest in Security Council action, which would ensure, among other things, rapid delivery of humanitarian relief and allow for rapid removal of sanctions.  It had also advocated the use of all oil revenues for the people of Iraq.  Other members of the Council had voiced similar concerns.  Now, it was important to ensure rapid humanitarian assistance to Iraq.  He hoped that, together, the countries of the United Nations would make rapid progress on that issue.  The British Government had already set aside some $110 million for provision of humanitarian assistance in case of conflict, and was likely to announce further funding. 

He continued to see an important role for UNMOVIC and the IAEA in carrying out further monitoring in the future, he said.  He commended the efforts of the inspectors after the adoption of resolution 1441.  They bore none of the responsibility for the current situation.  Equally, he noted that without cooperation of the Iraqi Government, it would have never been possible to achieve the key disarmament tasks or make progress against them.  The UNMOVIC and the IAEA should keep their work programme under review.  Their work would be possible when there was a secure situation on the ground and when there was an administration in place in Iraq that would make their work possible.

Speaking in his national capacity, the Council’s President, FRANÇOIS LONSENY FALL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guinea, said the Council had constantly taken initiatives, with a view to disarming Iraq.  He deeply regretted that, despite those efforts, the Council had not been able to arrive at a common position on that question.  He took note of the work programme outlining the key remaining disarmament tasks.  He also noted the decision of the Secretary-General to withdraw the inspectors from Iraq for reasons of security.  The new situation had now made the mission inoperable, for the time being.

He said his country believed in the possibility of safeguarding peace and achieving the common objective of the complete disarmament of Iraq.  If an armed conflict was inevitable, appropriate steps should be taken to spare the civilian population and limit the damage to the infrastructure.  He agreed, in advance, to any proposal of the Secretary-General on action to be undertaken to cope with the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.  He understood the moral necessity of ridding the world of the uncontrolled use of weapons of mass destruction, intended to preserve collective security.  He renewed his determination to work together with Council members to continue the dialogue aimed at restoring Council unity, which was needed now more than ever.

MOHAMMED ALDOURI (Iraq) thanked those members of the Council that had exerted efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the current crisis, created by the United States, United Kingdom and Spain, with the intention of launching a hostile war against Iraq and occupying it under the pretext that it had weapons of mass destruction.  He reiterated that Iraq no longer possessed such weapons.  The United States and the United Kingdom had failed to prove any allegation of Iraq’s possession of those weapons, especially during the period following the adoption of resolution 1441.  The inspectors had refuted all the deceiving data presented by those two countries, including that presented by the United States Secretary of State.

He said that after those two countries had failed to provide evidence and had felt that the world was starting to realize that Iraq was free of weapons of mass destruction, they decided to expose their real intentions, namely, the occupation of Iraq and controlling its oil wealth.  The coming days would prove the validity of that truth.  He welcomed Dr. Blix’s report and would do his utmost in completing those tasks as soon as possible and answer the questions posed in it.  Iraq had also completed two reports, one concerning anthrax and the other concerning the unmanned planes, which would be delivered to UNMOVIC as soon as possible.

The dire humanitarian effects of military aggression meant tens of thousands of casualties, complete destruction to infrastructure and spread of epidemics and diseases.  The United Nations staff had been evacuated, and the inspectors withdrawn, in “record time”.  That speedy withdrawal had in fact paved the way for the United States and the United Kingdom to commit their military aggression against Iraq.  In order to minimize the catastrophe, the Council should renew expeditiously the work of the oil-for-food programme.  The delay of the humanitarian goods, amounting to more than $10 billion, on its way to Iraq, would have dire negative effects.

He said that the threat of aggression by the United States and the United Kingdom, and its likeliness within a matter of hours, compelled the Council to immediately take the necessary steps to ensure international peace and security.  Iraq would continue to work with the Council to present the truth that it was free of weapons of mass destruction.  He hoped the Council would continue to search for a peaceful solution and the continuation of the inspections.

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN fully shared the regrets expressed by many Council members at the fact that it had not been possible to reach a common position.  “Whatever our differing views on this complex issue, we must all feel that this is a sad day for the United Nations and the international community.”  Millions of people around the world shared that sense of disappointment, and were deeply alarmed by the prospect of imminent war.  He paid tribute to the United Nations staff, both international and Iraqi, who had worked so hard in Iraq up to the last possible moment.  That included the inspectors, whose work had now sadly been suspended.

It was the plight of the Iraqi people that was his most immediate concern, and he was glad to hear that sentiment shared by all the speakers in the debate.  In the past 20 years, they had been through two major wars, internal uprisings and conflict, and more than a decade of debilitating sanctions.  The country’s vital infrastructure had been devastated, so that it no longer met the most basic needs for clean water, health or education.  Already, Iraq’s most vulnerable citizens

-– the elderly, women and children, and disabled persons –- were denied basic health care for lack of medicine and medical equipment. 

Already, he continued, nearly 1 million Iraqi children suffered from chronic malnutrition.  Already, Iraqis were heavily dependent on the food ration, which was handed out each month to every family in the country.  For more than 60 per cent of the population, that ration was their only source of food.  Yet, many families had to sell part of it to buy medicine or clothes for their children.  In the short term, the conflict that was now clearly about to start could make things worse -– perhaps much worse.

Everything must be done to mitigate the imminent disaster, which could easily lead to epidemics and starvation, he said.  Under international law, the responsibility for protecting civilians in conflict fell on the belligerents; in any area under military occupation, responsibility for the welfare of the population fell on the occupying Power.  Without in any way assuming or diminishing that ultimate responsibility, the United Nations would do whatever it could to help.

The humanitarian agencies of the United Nations had, for some time, been engaged in preparing for that contingency, even while it was hoped that it could be averted, he said.  The United Nations had done its best to assess the possible effects of war, in terms of population displacement and human need, and to position its personnel and equipment accordingly.  For those preparations, the United Nations had requested $123.5 million from donors a month ago, but only

$45 million had been pledged, and $34 million received.  “I’m afraid we shall very soon be coming back with an appeal for much larger sums, to finance actual relief operations –- and I earnestly hope that Member States will respond with generosity and speed.”

The United Nations had also examined the situation caused by the suspension of the activities of the oil-for-food programme in Iraq, and ways that the programme could be adjusted temporarily, to enable the Organization to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people during and after the hostilities.  Such adjustments would require decisions by the Council.  He would, therefore, submit his specific proposals for the Council’s consideration.  He hoped that the effort to relieve the sufferings of the Iraqi people, and to rehabilitate their society after so much destruction, might yet prove to be the task around which the unity of the Council could be rebuilt.

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