SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS FIRST DEBATE ON IRAQ SINCE START OF MILITARY ACTION; SPEAKERS CALL FOR HALT TO AGGRESSION, IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL

26 March 2003
SC/7705

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS FIRST DEBATE ON IRAQ SINCE START OF MILITARY ACTION; SPEAKERS CALL FOR HALT TO AGGRESSION, IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL

26/03/2003
Press Release
SC/7705


Security Council

4726th Meeting (PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS FIRST DEBATE ON IRAQ SINCE START OF MILITARY ACTION;

SPEAKERS CALL FOR HALT TO AGGRESSION, IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL


Secretary-General Says Council Must Rediscover Its Unity of Purpose


The Security Council, holding its first debate on Iraq since hostilities began on 19 March, was called on to end the illegal aggression and demand the immediate withdrawal of invading forces, by an overwhelming majority of this afternoon’s 45 speakers.


Expressing regret that diplomacy had failed to resolve the question of Iraq’s disarmament, speakers emphasized that the current war, carried out without Council authorization, was a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.  Many stressed they could not understand how the Council could remain silent in the face of the aggression by two of its permanent members against another United Nations Member State.


Meeting at the request of the League of Arab States and the Non-Aligned Movement, the Council also heard speakers urge the international community to ensure that the sovereignty and integrity of Iraq were fully preserved.  The right of the Iraqi people to determine their political future and exercise control over their natural resources should also be fully respected, they said.  Concern was also expressed about the provision of humanitarian assistance, in light of the suspension of the “oil-for-food” programme, which allowed Baghdad to use part of its petroleum sales to buy relief supplies and on which 60 per cent of Iraqis depend.  The programme was suspended on 17 March when Secretary-General Kofi Annan withdrew all United Nations personnel from Iraq.


Opening this afternoon’s meeting, the Secretary-General said the world was living through a moment of deep divisions, which, if not healed, could have grave consequences for the international system and relations between States.  The inability of the Council to agree earlier on a collective course of action placed an even greater burden on the Council today.  It must rediscover its unity of purpose, he said.


“We all want to see this war brought to an end as soon as possible”, the Secretary-General stated.  But, while it continued, it was essential that everything be done to protect the civilian population, as well as the wounded and the prisoners of war, on both sides, and to bring relief to the victims.


Iraq’s representative called on the Council to act to ensure that the rules of international law were observed.  While the aggressors said that their goal was the disarmament of Iraq, everybody knew that they were not the ones tasked with

that mandate.  The inspections during several months had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction or proscribed activities within Iraq.  The real reason for the attack was occupation of the country, its recolonization and control of its oil wealth.


He hoped the Council would stand up to the aggressors, he added.  It was peculiar that, instead of considering the aggression itself, the Council had been busy discussing the humanitarian aspects of the problem.  Shouldn’t the Council pay attention to the cessation of the aggression first?


        Malaysia’s representative, speaking as the Chair of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-aligned Movement, said it was highly regrettable that the parties concerned had chosen to cast aside multilateral diplomacy and taken the path of war, while efforts to avert conflict were continuing in earnest.  The war against Iraq should never have started in the first place, and should end immediately.  He called on the Council to use its power and authority to revert to the multilateral process in a common effort to resolve the issue.


The United States and the United Kingdom had waged war, stated the Observer for the League of Arab States, at a time when Iraq was positively cooperating with United Nations inspectors, who had stated that they only needed a few more months to discharge their tasks.  The only party authorized to disarm Iraq was the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).


Kuwait’s representative said that resolution 1441 (2002) had proclaimed Iraq in material breach of its obligations in the field of disarmament, as well as its obligations related to the return of Kuwaiti nationals and property.  The Iraqi Government was fully responsible for the situation it was in now.  He called on the Council to focus on the future of the Iraqi population, especially to avert any humanitarian catastrophe in the country, and supported the proposals being considered by the Council to amend the oil-for-food programme.


The representative of Australia, a member of the coalition that has taken military action against Iraq, said it was time for Council members to go beyond the acrimony, narrow political ambitions and separate agendas which had hamstrung the Council in recent months, and seize the opportunity to make good on their responsibilities.  It was time that the Council focused on what was at stake, and provided the guidance the international community was waiting for on humanitarian needs, long-term reconstruction, and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.


Statements were also made this afternoon by the representatives of Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Greece (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Indonesia, South Africa, Cuba, New Zealand, India, Poland, Singapore, Brazil, Turkey, Switzerland, Sudan, Viet Nam, Jamaica, Iran, Republic of Korea, Lebanon, Tunisia, Argentina, Mauritius, Belarus, Japan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Colombia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Nicaragua, Norway, Morocco, Albania, Venezuela, Iceland, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia and Guatemala.


The meeting began at 3:25 p.m. and was suspended at 8:31 p.m.  The Council will resume its open debate at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, 27 March.


Background


The Security Council met this afternoon to hold an open debate on Iraq, the first since hostilities began last week.  The meeting is being held upon the requests of the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, as contained in their respective letters to the Council President (documents S/2003/362 and 363).


Statements


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General, said that “all of us must regret that our intense efforts to achieve a peaceful solution, through the Council, did not succeed”.  Many asked why the Iraqi Government did not take full advantage of the last chance they were given by the Council, but, at the same time, many seriously questioned whether it was legitimate for Member States to take such a fateful action now.  The inability of it to agree earlier on a collective course of action placed an even greater burden on it today.


The Council, which had now had Iraq on its agenda for 12 long years, must rediscover its unity of purpose, he said.  “We all want to see this war brought to an end as soon as possible.”  But, while it continued, it was essential that everything be done to protect the civilian population, as well as the wounded and the prisoners of war, on both sides, and to bring relief to the victims.  That obligation was binding on all the belligerents.  The Geneva Conventions and all other instruments of international humanitarian law must be scrupulously obeyed.


He noted that the “oil-for-food” programme had now come to a halt, with some $2.4 billion of supplies, mainly food, in the pipeline.  The Council needed to determine how it would adjust the programme to make it possible for those supplies to reach the Iraqi people under present conditions, and to ensure that food, medicine and other essential life-sustaining supplies continued to be provided.  He was aware that a concerted effort was being made to reach agreement, and hoped that it would soon succeed.


However, he continued, the conflict was also creating new humanitarian needs, which the programme was not expected to cover.  The primary responsibility for meeting those needs fell on the belligerents who controlled the territory.  The humanitarian agencies of the United Nations were ready to help.  The humanitarian effort required in the coming weeks and months was going to be very costly.  The United Nations was about to launch a “flash appeal” to donors.  He urged Member States to respond swiftly and generously, and not to do so at the expense of victims of other emergencies in other parts of the world, which might be less newsworthy, but were no less devastating for the people caught up in them.


The Council had other heavy responsibilities related to the crisis, he stated.  It needed to determine how it would address the many needs of the Iraqi people -– whatever the outcome of the war -– and what the United Nations itself might be asked to undertake.  For anything beyond strictly humanitarian relief, a mandate from the Council was needed.  Needless to say, the Council’s responsibilities also extended far beyond Iraq.  There were many other conflicts that urgently needed its attention -– not least the conflict that inflamed passions throughout the Middle East and coloured so many people’s attitudes to the Iraq issue, namely, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Faith in the United Nations could only be restored if the Council was able to identify and work constructively towards specific goals, he said.  He urged the five permanent members, in particular, to show leadership by making a concrete effort to overcome their differences.  He emphasized two guiding principles, which should underpin all the Council’s future decisions on Iraq.  The first principle was respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.  The second, which flowed logically from the first, was respect for the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own political future and control over their own natural resources.


He concluded by saying that the world was living through a moment of deep divisions, which, if not healed, could have grave consequences for the international system and relations between States.  “By your interventions in this debate, you have it in your power to deepen those divisions, or to begin to heal them.  He appealed to all to choose the latter course, and to reunite around a new resolve to uphold the principles of the Charter.  That was essential if the Council was to recover its rightful role, entrusted to it by the Charter, as the body with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.


MOHAMMED A. ALDOURI (Iraq) said that his country -- a founding Member of  the United Nations -- was being subjected to aggression, which was killing women, children and the elderly.  Sanctions, which have lasted for almost 13 years, were also having a terrible effect on the country.  The goal of changing the regime in his country, which had been proclaimed by the United States, constituted a blatant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.  The humanitarian effect of the war was devastating.  The lack of water in Basra, for example, was likely to lead to outbreaks of disease.  A mosque in Baghdad had been destroyed.  In an attempt to terrorize Iraq, the United States and the United Kingdom conducted some 2,000 bombing sorties a day.  The forces of the Iraqi army and the people of the country were fighting a heroic battle against the aggression, however.


The Council must take action to make sure that the rules of international law were observed, he continued.  While the aggressors said that their goal was disarmament of Iraq, everybody knew that they were not the ones tasked with that mandate.  The inspections during several months had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction or proscribed activities within Iraq.  The real reason was occupation of the country, its recolonization and controlling its oil wealth.


The international community was also well aware that the Security Council had not authorized the use of force by the United States and the United Kingdom, he said.  Despite the position of the majority of the members of the Council and Iraq’s cooperation, the two countries had launched their aggressive war, which constituted a blatant material breach of international law and the United Nations Charter.  It was also a material breach of relevant Security Council resolutions, which, without exception, called for respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  This barbaric colonial military aggression against Iraq constituted a threat to international peace and security.  The Council was called upon to stop the aggression and demand the withdrawal of United States and United Kingdom forces from the territory of Iraq.  The Council must impose respect for its resolutions, particularly those relating to unjustified embargo against his country.  He was still hopeful that the international community would be able to impose its will on those who had broken the international law.  A failure to do so would mean the end of the United Nations system.


It was also peculiar that instead of considering the aggression itself, the Council had been busy discussing the humanitarian aspects of the problem, he added.  Shouldn’t the Council pay attention to the cessation of the aggression was first?  Wasn’t that putting the cart in front of the horse?  The oil-for-food programme had been stopped, and the inspectors had been withdrawn from Iraq, with the Council’s blessing.  How had the Council allowed itself to be manipulated into such a situation?  It was his hope that the Council would be able to stand up to the aggressors.


        RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia), speaking as the Chair of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-aligned Movement, said the Movement strongly believed that Member States of the United Nations should observe and abide by the United Nations Charter and the principles of international law in dealing with problems among nations.  The Movement opposed all unilateral military actions or use of force, including those made without proper authorization from the Council.  It deplored any unilateral action against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Member States.


        The war against Iraq violated the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter, he continued.  It was highly regrettable that the parties concerned had chosen to cast aside multilateral diplomacy and taken the path of war, while efforts to avert conflict were continuing in earnest.  The unilateral military action was an illegitimate act of aggression.  The war against Iraq should never have started in the first place, and should end immediately.  The problem of Iraq should and could be resolved peacefully through the United Nations.  He called on the Council to use its power and authority to revert to  the multilateral process in a common effort to resolve the issue.


With military activity now escalating in Iraq, he said, he was extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation of the civilian population in that country.  There were reports, for example, that the people in Basra could be facing a serious humanitarian disaster, including shortage of basic needs such as electricity and water, if relief supplies did not reach them in time.  He hoped the sufferings of the civilian population would be relieved as soon as possible. While the responsibility for that lay with those countries that had initiated military action against Iraq, the international community must also assist the United Nations in carrying out the important task of providing humanitarian relief.


YAHYA MAHMASSANI, Observer for the League of Arab States, said that the resolution adopted at the end of the Ministerial Council meeting of the League on 23 March had stated that the aggression against Iraq was a violation of the United Nations Charter and the principles of international law, as well as a threat to international peace and security.  The League had called for the unconditional withdrawal of United States and British forces from Iraq and held them responsible for all the repercussions of the aggression.  It had also called on the Council to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of forces.  In addition, the League had called for a reaffirmation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.


The United States and the United Kingdom had waged war at a time when Iraq was positively cooperating with United Nations inspectors, who needed only a few months to discharge their tasks, he said.  The only party authorized to disarm Iraq was the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).  Wouldn’t it have been better to wait a few moths to avoid a war, which would lead to grave consequences for the country and the region?  The war was taking place despite the Council’s refusal to approve and despite international pressure.  The waging of war against Iraq had led him to believe that the question of Iraq was not one of weapons of mass destruction, but of the imposition of absolute power, plans and schemes.  He reaffirmed that the shape of the Arab political regimes must be decided by the peoples of the region themselves.  Any attempt to impose changes in the region or control its resources was totally unacceptable.


At a time when there was hope for the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he was stunned to see the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  Instead of one occupation, there were now two to deal with.  The threat to the security of Arab nations was the possession by Israel of weapons of mass destruction.  The other threat was the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.  The current international system was facing a grave danger.  He called on the Council to shoulder its responsibility as the organ responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security.  How could the Council remain silent while an unjust war was being waged?  He called on the Council to put an end to the war and call for the immediate withdrawal of the invading forces.


ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that it had taken hundreds of thousands of people “crying tears of blood” in the face of the horrors of war for the Council to assume its responsibility for protecting those in danger.  To do nothing today would be tantamount to compliance in leaving a nation in peril.  The war in Iraq had started at a time when there was no immediate danger to international peace and security and when the inspection process was proceeding peacefully.  It was hard to characterize the terror of millions of children already robbed of their childhood as a result of sanctions, who were awakened by the bombings.  Thousands all over the world had demonstrated against war in Iraq.


Since the beginning of the crisis, Algeria had called for a peaceful settlement of the crisis, based on the inspection process, he continued.  It had warned of the dangers of the armed conflict and expressed its great concern over the fate of the Iraqi people.  Civilian populations always paid the highest price at the time of war.  The images of suffering women and children appeared on television despite the censorship imposed on the stations.  The use of force against Iraq had not been duly authorized and did not meet the criteria of international legitimacy.  Those who acted outside the Council were acting in violation of its norms.


The real objectives of the war were, in fact, different from the proclaimed goal of disarming Iraq, he said.  His country endorsed the resolution adopted this month by the League of Arab States, which called for an immediate cessation of war and immediate and unconditional withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq.  He called for strict respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq and supported the people of Iraq in its ordeal.  He also called for strict compliance with the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of the prisoners of war.


The United Nations must meet the many challenges that humanity was facing, he said.  Otherwise, it would lose its soul.  Today, it was truly at a crossroads, its very existence challenged.  Its responsibility was great, for the use of force had not been authorized.  It must call for an immediate cessation of the conflict.  Was that too much to ask of the Council, which remained the hope of the international community?


AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said the international community must consider collective action to bring fighting in Iraq to an end and initiate political action to achieve a peaceful settlement to the crisis.  Those actions would spare the people of the Middle East and elsewhere a war that threatened to assume grave dimensions and repercussions that would reach far and wide.


Had sufficient opportunity been given to the international regime, it would have been possible for humanity to avoid watching the painful picture it saw in Iraq today, he continued.  The fall of a single victim was a loss to humanity, and every casualty would continue to haunt succeeding generations.  The Council represented the conscience of the international community, and it could send a clear message calling for the immediate cessation of fighting in Iraq, as well as call for a peaceful settlement.  It must insist that the sovereignty of Iraq be maintained and urge all parties to respect the principles of international law.  The resort to war was the result of a failure of the political action means of resolving disputes.  The Council should not shirk its responsibility in that regard under the Charter.


ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI (Yemen) said that he was deeply concerned by the impact the war would have -- the death of thousands of civilians and the destruction not only sown in Iraq, but in the region as a whole.  Even before the first missile was launched, a division could be seen in the Council between a majority, which favoured the continuation of inspections, and a minority, which wished to halt all efforts towards peace.  The Council had been marginalized and paralysed in its role as the organ responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security.  The military invasion of Iraq foreshadowed a tragedy for Iraq and the region.  The invasion was also highly dangerous for the future of international relations.


He said that the military invasion was in no way justified, particularly given Iraq’s devotion to implementing resolutions on disarmament, especially 1441 (2002), as confirmed by the reports of the heads of UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The utilization of force constituted a flagrant violation of international law and the Charter.  Also, the coalition countries had said that they were determined to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.  They were doing so without having been given a mandate by the Council to do so. They were also overlooking the chemical, biological and nuclear arsenal of Israel, and thereby reflecting a policy of “two weights and two measures”.


The policy of regime change was an act of aggression against a Member of the United Nations and constituted interference in its internal affairs.  He reaffirmed the need to ensure the territorial integrity of Iraq.  Despite the precarious situation, he was heartened by the international consensus against the war.  However, that consensus must be crystallized into a policy, and that was the responsibility of the United Nations.

MOHAMMAD A. ABULHASAN (Kuwait) said that on 24 March the League of Arab States had adopted its resolution, with reservation from the State of Kuwait, for it did not mention the aggression by Iraq against his country.  It was with profound sadness that his country was learning about the innocent victims among the brotherly Iraqi people and the coalition forces, as a result of ongoing hostilities.  War should be the last resort, which could be used only after exhausting all other means.  His people fully realized the effects of the military operations in Iraq, which had come about as a result of Iraq’s persistence in rejecting Security Council resolutions concerning elimination of weapons of mass destruction.  It was important to remember that in 1991 Kuwait had been subjected to occupation by Iraq for seven months.


He urged the coalition forces to continue taking all precautionary measures to avoid unnecessary losses and exposing civilians to danger.  His country had not and would not participate in any military operations against Iraq, but it was taking measures to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Since

20 March, Iraq had launched several missiles against the targets on the territory of Kuwait.  He called on the Security Council to demand that Iraq stop hostile actions against his country.  The Iraqi Government was trying to draw Kuwait into the war, but his country was resisting such attempts.  The missiles, which Iraq was aiming against civilian areas in Kuwait, exceeded the range of 150 kilometres.  That proved the invalidity of Iraq’s allegations that it did not possess such weapons. 


Resolution 1441 had proclaimed Iraq in material breach of its obligations in the field of disarmament, as well as its obligations related to the return of Kuwaiti nationals and property, he continued.  The Iraqi Government was fully responsible for the situation it was in now.  Having seen disturbing images of prisoners of war in Iraq, he called on the Security Council and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to intervene and demand that Iraq respect the principles of international law concerning the humane treatment of prisoners of war.  Kuwait also called on the Council to focus on the future of the Iraqi population, especially to avert any humanitarian catastrophe in the country.  He supported the proposals being considered by the Council to amend the oil-for-food programme.  The Secretary-General should be granted the authority to lead humanitarian efforts in the country.  Kuwait wanted to preserve the wealth and national resources of Iraq and thwart the desperate attempts by the Iraqi Government to create an environmental crisis in the area.


AHMED OWN (Libya) expressed regret that Iraq had been targeted by air, ground and sea attacks on a scale without precedent by conventional weapons of mass destruction.  There had been continuous bombings on Iraq’s cities and infrastructure, which had resulted in civilian casualties.  Those casualties had been seen on all television stations except those of the aggressor State, which had hid behind its actions.  The international community was going through a sad day, when one of the major States of the United Nations violated its fundamental spirit.  The United Nations had been marginalized, although it was an institution where disputes should be settled through peaceful means.  As a consequence, it had weathered extensive damage, which would affect it for some time.


The war against Iraq was a flagrant violation of all international standards and laws, as well as the objectives of the United Nations Charter.  The aggressor had marginalized all the efforts of institutions responsible for maintaining international peace and security.  The war violated resolution 1441 (2002), which did not authorize the use of force against Iraq.  When that resolution was adopted, the representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom had stated that it did not authorize the use of force.  Those two States had declared that regime change and establishing freedom, democracy and human rights were the objectives of the war.  But how could freedom and democracy occur with missiles and bombs, which destroyed Iraqi institutions and affected innocent civilians?  Was it not just to demand withdrawal of all forces from Iraq territory and to compensate its people?


ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union was committed to the territorial integrity, sovereignty, political stability and full and effective disarmament of Iraq.  It also respected the rights of the Iraqi people, including all persons belonging to minorities.  The Union believed the United Nations must continue to play a central role during and after the current crisis, and that the Council should give the United Nations a strong mandate for that mission.


The international community urgently needed to address the major humanitarian needs that would arise from the conflict, he continued.  He supported efforts based on proposals made by the Secretary-General to adapt the “oil-for-food” programme to changing circumstances, so that it would continue to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.  On the regional front, the Union expressed solidarity with, and stood ready to assist, countries faced with problems and risks as a result of conflict, including possible refugee flows.


MOCHAMAD SLAMET HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said that the aggression must be immediately stopped.  For some weeks now, the countries had been agonizing about the very future of the United Nations system, sidelined by the wilful unilateral action of the powerful.  The United Nations’ authority had been undermined.  Another question concerned the multidimensional consequences of the war to the Middle East region, and beyond.  The Member States’ shared commitment to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war demanded that the United Nations not stand idle.  It was for those reasons that Indonesia had joined the countries that had asked for the convening of today’s meeting.


Indonesia strongly deplored the unilateral action by the United States and its allies, which had decided to launch military attack against Iraq in contravention of international law, he continued.  His country was witnessing with profound sadness the humanitarian toll, the intolerable sufferings, which had been inflicted upon thousands of innocent and vulnerable civilians in Iraq, as well as rising casualties among the combatants on the ground.  Today, there was an alarming prospect that the fighting would spiral out of control.  A grave humanitarian crisis was already under way.


He went on to say that, in its justified concern to immediately and collectively address the grave humanitarian situation in Iraq, the international community should not lose sight of the fact that the countries that had chosen the path of war, in disregard of the process within the Security Council, bore special responsibility to address the unfolding humanitarian suffering resulting from their actions.  His Government had also consistently underlined that any solution to the question of Iraq should respect the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of that country.  Resolution 1441 provided a clear road map to effectively address the issue of Iraq’s disarmament through the inspections regime.  Diplomacy, combined with judicious pressure, had been yielding results.  The Council’s silence in calling for immediate cessation of the aggression was deafening, indeed.  Indonesia hoped the Council would not fail to shoulder its Charter-mandated responsibilities to maintain international peace and security.  It must unite and join the clarion calls of nations and peoples all over the world for an end to the war.


DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said the United Nations must play a central role in securing an end to the war in Iraq.  It was the primary institution that gave legality and legitimacy to collective efforts to secure peace and security in the world.  The war could result in unwanted occupation that would further complicate the achievement of peace and stability in the entire region.  The war in Iraq must not be allowed to lead to the erosion of the principles and values that were contained in the United Nations Charter.  He cautioned the Council from being drawn into drafting a resolution that would provide tacit or implied approval for military operations currently under way in Iraq.


The Council had a role to play, he continued, in ensuring that provisions were in place to assist with the delivery of humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people.  It must pass a resolution on humanitarian assistance that upheld the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, and ensured that the natural resources of Iraq remained in the hands of its people.  The open-ended and punitive sanctions the Iraqi people had been forced to endure for more than

12 years must come to an end.  The oil-for-food programme could be adjusted to ensure that humanitarian goods that had been ordered by the Iraqi Government were delivered.


BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said that the aggression of the United States and the United Kingdom against Iraq deserved strong condemnation and should be stopped immediately.  The Council should comply with its primary responsibility in the restoration of international peace and security, shattered by that act of aggression.  The inspections were suspended when tangible progress was being achieved.  Iraq had been sentenced a long time ago.  Iraq did not constitute, nor could it constitute, the slightest risk to United States national security or that of its allies.  Some analysts had submitted evidence that the attack against Iraq had even been planned before the 11 September attacks on the United States.


The priority now, he stated, was to stop the bombardments and aggression against Iraq.  It was also a priority to protect civilians and provide humanitarian assistance.  The Council and the Secretary-General should be careful in their mandates and responsibilities.  Nothing should be done against the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.  The aim of the United Nations now must be to achieve a ceasefire and stop the aggression.


DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said the Council’s common objective must be to end hostilities in Iraq as quickly as possible, so that risks to the Iraqi people were minimized and their humanitarian needs met.  Those involved in initiating military action appeared to have acknowledged their responsibilities in that respect, but the broader international community must respond urgently to the United Nations call for humanitarian relief funds.  The Council must move to resolve practical issues related to the oil-for-food programme, which must continue to operate effectively.  The Secretary-General had made proposals for its continuing effectiveness, and the Council should work quickly to reach agreement on that.


The Council had undergone an extremely divisive and difficult period, he said, but it must now set aside those differences and focus on the welfare of the Iraqi people.  A challenging period of reconstruction in Iraq lay ahead, and it would be in the long-term interest of all to see the United Nations fully engaged.  The United Nations had the experience to contribute and help define the international architecture for the delivery of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance.


V.K. NAMBIAR (India) said that securing Iraq’s cooperation with the inspections process and compliance with all relevant Council resolutions should have been the main focus of the Council’s efforts.  That, unfortunately, did not happen.  Thus, some members had decided to proceed unilaterally.  He hoped that the military campaign, which was avoidable, would be short-lived, and strongly urged that all possible efforts be made to bring hostilities to an early end.  He also called on all parties involved in the war to meet their obligations towards civilians under international humanitarian law.  The international community should ensure that the sovereignty and integrity of Iraq were fully preserved, as well as its secular traditions.  The right of the Iraqi people to determine their political future and exercise control over their natural resources should also be fully respected.


Regarding the oil-for-food programme, he believed that approved contracts for supplies to Iraq under the programme would be the logical priority for delivering immediate assistance to the Iraqi people.  The international community must quickly get involved in restoring peace in Iraq in the eventual reconstruction of the country and in alleviating the plight of its long-suffering people.  He urged the Council to display the required unity and collective will to be able to assist the Iraqi people in that endeavour.  India had already announced its willingness to fully participate in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq and its people, which would be inevitable as a result of the current conflict.


JANUSZ STANCZYK (Poland) said the conclusion had to be reached that the peaceful means for resolving the Iraqi crisis had been exhausted and the use of force remained the only option.  The exclusive responsibility for that state of affairs rested with the Iraqi leadership.  The intervention of the international coalition to force implementation by Iraq of relevant Council resolutions was not directed against the Iraqi people.  It had been undertaken to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, which threatened international peace and security. Failure to take action to effectively disarm Saddam Hussein’s regime would be a serious political and military mistake, tantamount to tolerating breaches of the law and persistent disregard of obligations towards the United Nations.  It would lead to further undermining the authority of the United Nations.


The main aim of the international coalition was to destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and establish the rule of law in Iraq, he said.  The military operation would be terminated immediately after attaining the set objectives.  The Iraqi people would be able to benefit from the country’s resources, of which they were the rightful owners.  The entire nation would enjoy full rights and would be able to undertake the construction of a new State, based on the principles of self-determination and liberty, without distinction as to political or ethnic background, and thus be able to determine their own future.


KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) expressed deep regret that the Government of Iraq had chosen not to take the final opportunity afforded it under resolution 1441.  The people of Iraq, who had already suffered greatly from the Government’s failure to comply with its disarmament obligations over the past 12 years, would suffer the most from the conflict.  Like many Members, his country would have preferred that the Council had again explicitly authorized military action to disarm Iraq, but the onus had always been on that country to avoid war.  Given Iraq’s long history of flouting Security Council resolutions, the inability of the Council to reach a new consensus could not be taken as a reason for inaction to disarm Iraq.


Looking ahead, the international community needed to address the immediate challenges in Iraq, he continued, and it had to look for lasting solutions.  The oil-for-food programme needed to be restarted as soon as possible, as 60 per cent of the Iraqi population was dependent on food rations procured under the auspices of that programme.  Now, over 2 million people required assistance.  If the conflict became protracted, the number of people needing assistance would undoubtedly rise.  Therefore, he supported the Secretary-General’s proposals and hoped that the Council would be able to reach agreement soon on a resolution allowing the resumption of the programme.


Emergency relief must begin immediately, he stressed, with priority given to the worst-affected areas.  He was particularly concerned about reports from the ICRC that civilians in Basra could be facing a humanitarian disaster.  Urgent measures were needed to restore basic utilities to the population there as soon as possible.  He also supported the Secretary-General’s call for both sides involved to respect humanitarian law.


While encouraged by the pledges already made in support of an international reconstruction programme in Iraq, he believed that a more pressing concern was the provision of funding for humanitarian relief operations.  The United Nations appeal for funds currently faced a shortfall of nearly $90 million.  Singapore was prepared to do its part, within its limited means, to contribute to any international humanitarian relief effort.  His Government had contributed almost half a million Singapore dollars to provide a quick jump-start to a fund to help refugees and victims of the war in Iraq.  He hoped that, as soon as the war was over, the international community would come together again to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people. 


JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said it was time for Council members to go beyond the acrimony, narrow political ambitions and separate agendas that had hamstrung the Council in recent months and seize the opportunity to make good on their responsibilities.  It was time that the Council looked to the future for Iraq and the Iraqi people.  It was time that the Council focused on what was at stake, and provided the guidance the international community was waiting for on humanitarian needs, long-term reconstruction, and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.


Australia was part of the coalition to disarm Iraq, he said, because it believed an Iraq with weapons of mass destruction represented a grave threat to its own and international security.  Its participation in the coalition was in complete accordance with international law.  Existing Council resolutions, including 687, 678 and 1441, provided authority for the use of force to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and to restore international peace and security to the region.


Australia was matching its words with actions.  It had provided an initial contribution of $17.5 million to United Nations humanitarian agencies and other organizations.  It had two ships with 100,000 tonnes of food aid waiting offshore to start deliveries.  It was also positioned to play its part in longer-term reconstruction work to help Iraq return to its rightful place in the international community.  But, it was Australia’s strong preference that the Council played its part.  He urged Council members to agree on tools which would allow rapid and effective delivery of immediate humanitarian assistance to Iraq, and help in longer-term rehabilitation and reconstruction.  That applied most immediately to resolutions on restoring the oil-for-food programme, and on longer-term reconstruction.


     RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said his country profoundly deplored the initiation of military action in Iraq, especially since it had occurred without the express authorization of the Council.  His Government called for the cessation of hostilities and the restoration of peace and respect for Iraqi territorial integrity and sovereignty.  It also stressed the need for strict observance of all principles of international humanitarian law, in particular, those referring to the protection of the civilian population, of refugees and the treatment of war prisoners.


     The immediate question before the Council was how to extend humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.  Even before military intervention, more than

60 per cent of the Iraqi population was dependent on the oil-for-food programme for its basic provisions.  Since the conflict had begun, the situation had deteriorated, and suspension of the programme had exacerbated the situation. Military action without the express authorization of the Council had profound, sensitive legal and political implications, which must be carefully weighed as the Council worked towards re-establishing urgent forms of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations agencies’ humanitarian relief work should be promptly resumed and the coordination of all humanitarian efforts should remain the Secretary-General’s responsibility.


UMUT PAMIR (Turkey) said that the Turkish people prayed for an early end of the war in Iraq.  He continued to hope that the loss of life would be minimal.  Now, on the carcass of aborted diplomacy, the international community had reason to deeply regret the division that had reigned over the Council at the critical moment in history.  “We are left with a call to parties to uphold the principles of international humanitarian law.  We appeal to them to act in accordance with the established practices thereof”, he said.


Continuing, he said that the statement by the representative of Greece on behalf of the European Union embodied the principles and outlook that would serve well at the time of profound change and uncertainty.  It was with that understanding that Turkey had aligned itself with the Union’s position.  Turkey valued its cultural and historical ties with Iraq and its people.  It was, first and foremost, a time-honoured tradition that friends were called upon to be candid and straightforward at times like these.  Had Iraq provided the necessary cooperation in 1991, the current situation could have been avoided.  There was much to regret, much to ponder with a sense of loss and dismay.  While the conflict was under way, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people was of paramount importance, and the oil-for-food programme should continue uninterrupted.


Turning to the “vast amount of sheer disinformation with regard to Turkey” in northern Iraq, he said that Turkey upheld the territorial integrity, political sovereignty and national unity of Iraq.  It would support the decisions by the Iraqi people through democratic processes.  It supported attempts to put a fully representative system in place in Iraq.  It also believed that the natural resources of Iraq belonged to all Iraqis.  Not a sliver of scheming above and below those basic parameters could be ascribed to Turkey.  His country was profoundly hurt by the cynical, self-righteous and at times insulting barrage of rhetoric emanating from certain quarters. 


The country could not allow another influx of refugees as it did in 1991, however, he said.  Any refugee movement should be met inside Iraq and the people in distress should be provided with shelter, food and security.  Turkey could not allow the PKK/KADEK terrorists marauding through parts of northern Iraq to abuse conditions of stability.  At any rate, it was common knowledge that elements of the Turkish armed forces were stationed in northern Iraq.  They had not been sent there yesterday, but years ago in the context of “Operation Northern Watch” in the aftermath of the Gulf War.  Thanks to that operation, the Kurds living in northern Iraq received protection and humanitarian relief.  Turkey had no intention of entering Iraq.  Should it need to, Turkey would not enter Iraq to fight, but to monitor a refugee crisis that might unfold and to respond to immediate security concerns.


JENO C.A. STAEHELIN (Switzerland) strongly supported the appeal of the Secretary-General to the parties to the conflict to do everything within their power to allow the United Nations humanitarian personnel to return to the regions affected, to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and protect vulnerable people.  In the immediate future, it was incumbent on the States directly involved in the war effort, in conformity with their obligations as set out in the Geneva Conventions, to take responsibility for the urgent needs of civilians.  He underlined the importance of a clear separation between military and humanitarian activities.  It was imperative that the latter be guided by the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality.  He also stressed that efficient coordination must be ensured between the coalition forces and humanitarian organizations.


He appealed to the parties to the conflict to ensure access by the ICRC to people in need.  The impartial activities of the ICRC must be facilitated in all circumstances.  He was concerned about the direct consequences of the conflict on supplies to civilians and encouraged the Council to reactivate the oil-for-food programme without delay in a form that took due account of the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.  The United Nations must assume its indispensable role in reaching, without delay, a settlement to the Iraq crisis that was acceptable to the entire international community.  He appealed to Council members to overcome their differences and to reassume their principal responsibility –- to maintain international peace and security.

ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said that he wanted to pay tribute to the members of the Council who had opposed war.  Of course, their efforts had not prevented the outbreak of hostilities, but their stand would remain in history.  He supported the recent declaration of the League of Arab States, which called the aggression against Iraq a violation of the principles of international law and demanded immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces.  The aggressors should bear all legal and financial responsibility for their actions.


It now appeared that the war would take a long time, he continued, and now it seemed that the suffering of innocent civilians in Iraq would be even worse than expected.  He expected the Council to take action to restore peace and security in Iraq and to take the full burden of its responsibility to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.  He appealed for a cessation of hostilities in that country, after which the inspectors should resume and conclude their tasks.  He called on the international community to rise above its differences.  A tremendous world solidarity had been manifested through massive protest demonstrations all over the world.  That should lead to an international consensus, based on the principles of the United Nations Charter.  That document should not be allowed to turn into yet another blue booklet, which could be selectively quoted or ignored.


NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam) said it was deeply deplorable that worldwide protests, as well as Council efforts, had failed to find a solution that might have helped to avoid the tragedy.  The use of force against an independent sovereign State and Member of the United Nations was a gross violation of the United Nations Charter and fundamental principles of international law.  It also rendered the United Nations ineffective and created an extremely dangerous precedent.  The preventive actions against Iraq would not help to ensure the world’s security; rather, it ran the risk of spreading misunderstanding and causing violence in the Middle East to spiral.


War was always a death sentence to peace, he said.  Viet Nam added its voice to others in calling for an immediate end to military action in Iraq.  As supplies of essential necessities, which 60 per cent of Iraqis were depending on, ran low, the oil-for-food programme should be reconstituted.  Viet Nam was eager to take an active part in the collective endeavour to assist the Iraqi people in its time of crisis.


STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica) said peaceful disarmament through an inspections process was a viable alternative to war that had not been exhausted.  Regrettably, force had been used, and the international community was now seeing the harsh realities -- death and destruction caused by military conflict.  It had seen in vivid detail the powerful demonstration of sophisticated technology and destructive power of modern weaponry.  The aerial bombardment of Baghdad, the wailing sirens and the thunder of explosions had no doubt succeeded in producing fear and trepidation, especially among civilians in Baghdad.  The scars of war were deep and generations of Iraqis would bear them, as would generations of United States and other citizens of the international community.


The nations that had undertaken military action in Iraq were countries with which Jamaica was bound by ties of history and shared values of freedom.  That very friendship obliged Jamaica to make heard today its small voice for peace.  Now was the time for a sincere, bold and unequivocal search for peace to save the lives of combatants and the innocent, to stop the possible spread of war, and to secure mankind’s future in a troubled world.  Beyond what was happening in Iraq and transcending the specific circumstances was the challenge of ensuring that the collective wisdom of the United Nations, and the Council in particular, not be eroded by the will of the mighty.


JAVAD ZARIF (Iran) said that his country deplored the fact that diplomatic efforts to implement Security Council resolutions on the disarmament of Iraq had been prematurely and arbitrarily aborted, and a sovereign Member of the Organization had become subject of an outright invasion.  The unilateral war against Iraq did not meet any standards of international legitimacy.  It was not waged in self-defence against any armed attack.  Not even by a stretch of imagination could Iraq, after 12 years of comprehensive sanctions, be considered an imminent threat against the national security of the belligerent Powers.


It was also evident that the war was in no way authorized by the Council, he said.  Quite to the contrary, the latest round of diplomacy in the Council had clearly demonstrated that the majority of its members were either opposed or unwilling to support the draft resolution authorizing war.  While it was true that 12 years had elapsed since the Council had set out the obligations of the Iraqi Government with respect to disarmament and that Iraq had yet to clarify a number of relevant outstanding issues, it was up to the Council to make that determination.  Moreover, the stated goal of regime change in Iraq ran counter to the norms of international law.  The Iraqi people may resent their Government, but as they had shown in the past days, they did not accept their liberation through foreign occupation.


His country, which shared long borders with Iraq and was dangerously close to the theatre of hostilities, had not only received refugees, but also rockets and missiles from both sides, he continued.  In that connection, he registered his Government’s strongest protests and underlined the imperative of taking remedial and preventive measures by the belligerents.  The provisions of international law should be promoted and enforced in their entirety.  Selectivity was not only unacceptable, but, in fact, dangerously impractical.


Turning to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, he said that his Government had made preparations to assist Iraqi civilians in cooperation with multilateral institutions.  However, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the countries that had resorted to war had to shoulder the full burden of meeting the humanitarian and protection requirements of Iraqi civilians and must be accountable for the welfare and safety of the people.  At the same time, it was imperative that those issues not be decided unilaterally outside the United Nations.  The guiding principle should be respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of Iraq, as well as the right of its people for self-determination.  It was necessary to tackle the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Iraq, but it was not acceptable that the Council had failed to consider the conflict itself.  The Council had the obligation to address the breach of peace in Iraq.


SUN JOUN-VUNG (Republic of Korea) said Iraq had been given more than enough time and opportunity to disarm.  Since it had failed to comply with its disarmament obligations for the past 12 years, it must be concluded that Iraq had had no genuine intention in disarming.  If the country today faced the “serious consequences” mentioned in resolution 1441, it had no one but itself to blame.  The coalition action by the international community should be construed as an inevitable measure taken after the exhaustion of all possible diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue peacefully.


With the hostilities now occurring, he was deeply concerned about the plight of innocent Iraqi people who would suffer from the deteriorating humanitarian situation.  The international community must take necessary measures to meet the acute humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, expeditiously providing key humanitarian supplies, in particular, food and medicines.


HOUSSAM ASAAD DIAB (Lebanon) said that the foreign ministers of Arab States had, on 24 March, adopted a resolution condemning the United States-United Kingdom aggression against Iraq.  That unilateral military act lacked any moral or legal ground.  The overwhelming majority of Council members, during the debate on

19 March, had stated that peaceful means for Iraq’s disarmament had not been exhausted yet, based on the reports of the IAEA and UNMOVIC, which had not been allowed enough time to complete their tasks.  Also, resolution 1441 did not permit the automatic use of force.  In addition, using the objective of regime change to justify the act was not only a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, but also a violation of the basic principles of the United Nations Charter.


Attempting to impose changes on the region and interfering in the internal affairs of States were unacceptable, he stated.  The UNMOVIC had declared that it had not found any weapons of mass destruction or evidence of prohibited activities during the past four months.  The military act undertaken by the United States and the United Kingdom was beginning to cause humanitarian and environmental catastrophes, which would threaten the entire Middle East.  The Council was called on today to do its utmost to control the current crisis and guarantee the return to a peaceful approach to disarm Iraq.  The Council must also take measures to put an end to the current military action and call for the withdrawal of United States and United Kingdom forces, in order to preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq.


ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said that the conflict in Iraq had erupted despite numerous calls for a peaceful settlement there.  His country had sided with many Arab nations in their search for a settlement within the framework of international legitimacy, in keeping with the principles of the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq. 


Since the conflict had now become a fait accompli, his country was seriously concerned over its serious impact on the people of Iraq and the region on the whole, he continued.  Tunisia called upon all the parties to return to peaceful means in dealing with the issues involved, in order to avoid a further escalation of the conflict in the country and a negative impact on the region, in particular, the deterioration of the situation in Palestine, as a result of Israeli policies in the occupied territories.


ARNOLDO LISTRE (Argentina) said the actions of the United Nations, particularly the Council, must now be directed at facilitating the work of humanitarian organizations, providing medical, food and other assistance.  He urged all parties concerned to cooperate with that objective and to avoid, to the maximum extent possible, the consequences of military actions on the civilian populations and facilities.  Assuming that stance would not prejudge in any way the legality or legitimacy of the armed conflict, but was aimed at protecting the civilian population in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality.  That was why Argentina supported the proposals of the Secretary-General to adapt the oil-for-food programme to the present situation on the ground.


In the eyes of world opinion, he continued, the Council had been unable to prevent the armed conflict in Iraq, but it could not now allow itself to be perceived as the obstacle to humanitarian assistance.  If, in the light of the daily tragedy of millions of innocent Iraqis, the Council was paralysed or did not act with the determination demanded by the circumstances, the public opinion might wonder what the use of the United Nations and the Council was.  That would undoubtedly deal a new and heavy blow to an already weakened Organization.


JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) said that, had Iraq respected all its obligations regarding implementation of the relevant Council resolutions, war could have been avoided.  At the same time, it must be recognized that Iraq had shown increased cooperation over recent months, as stated by the heads of UNMOVIC and the IAEA.  War was avoidable and more time should have been allowed to the inspectors.  Also, any military action against Iraq required the authorization of the Council.


Mauritius had been hopeful that the Council would remain united on the issue, he said.  Regrettably, that had not been the case.  In the face of the current human tragedy, he hoped that the conflict would end as soon as possible with minimum casualties.  He called for immediate action to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi population.  He appealed to the Council to fully assume its responsibilities and do its utmost to deal with the crisis in a manner which would restore its credibility.  Mauritius stood ready to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq and had set up a fund in that connection.


ALEG IVANOU (Belarus) said “history only teaches us that it teaches nothing”.  Today, the international community was witnessing an armed aggression against a sovereign Member State of the United Nations.  That aggression had been planned well in advance and launched in circumvention of the authority of the Security Council under the United Nations Charter.  The efforts undertaken by the peace-loving nations had proven to be insufficient to avert war. 


The President and people of Belarus condemned the aggression against Iraq, he said, and resolutely opposed any unilateral attempts to enforce systems of administration and governance upon peoples of the world.  Bombers could not serve as a means for delivery of humanitarian aid.  Belarus was very aware of the horrible toll carried by war.  The use of force as the last resort constituted an exclusive prerogative of the Security Council, and the disregard of that body led to undermining the existing world order.


His country called upon the Council to immediately stop the aggression and prevent further unjustified civilian casualties.  An adequate assessment should be given to the military action, and he urged the Organization to reassert its direct responsibility for the maintenance of peace and the rule of law.  The resolution of the Iraqi issue in conformity with the objectives of the United Nations could only be attained through peaceful means based on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, as well as its people’s right to independently choose its own path.


KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said Iraq had time and again violated 17 Council resolutions, and had made no effort to seize opportunities for a peaceful solution to the current crisis.  Although Iraq clearly held the key to peace, it had closed that route off through its own actions.  The best solution would be to dismantle weapons of mass destruction without an armed conflict.  That was impossible, however, and Japan had decided, as a responsible member of the international community, to support the actions taken by the United States and its coalition partners.


Japan profoundly hoped that the conflict would be concluded at the earliest possible time with minimum casualties, and that the threat posed by Iraq to the international community would be removed.  It was essential that Iraq be rebuilt as soon as possible, and that its people lived peacefully in a free and prosperous society.  Towards that end, the international community must cooperate in supporting the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq.  Japan would actively address that process.


SRGJAN KERIM (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that, unfortunately, the Iraqi regime did not comprehend the seriousness of the situation and had failed to fulfil its disarmament obligations.  If Iraq had made a real effort to cooperate in substance in the past 12 years, and seized the final opportunity given to it in resolution 1441, it would have been possible to avoid the current situation.  The action that was being led by the coalition represented a last resort and was in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.


All the energy of the Council must now be focused on the humanitarian aspect of the Iraqi crisis, he said.  The current divisions and disagreements among Council members must be resolved immediately in order to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population.  He supported the plan for continuing and adapting the oil-for-food programme, in a manner consistent with the Secretary-General’s proposals.  He added that the territorial integrity of Iraq must be fully preserved and its sovereignty restored as soon as possible to the people of Iraq.  The help and support of the international community would be essential for Iraq in the period to come.  The United Nations sanctions had to be lifted as soon as possible and an international reconstruction programme must follow.


LUIS GUILLERMO GIRALDO (Colombia) said that his Government considered it essential today to try to prevent the past from distorting the international community’s obligations to make the conditions of the people of Iraq less difficult and work on the reconstruction of that nation.  It was important to provide the Iraqi people with opportunities for development and progress in a democratic context and with full respect for human rights.  It was indispensable for the Council to take up the item of Iraq and provide the assistance required. It was necessary to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, for hunger and starvation could happen in the next few weeks.


The Council members must overcome their difference and provide humanitarian assistance, and secure the operation of the oil-for-food programme.  It was essential that the proposed draft resolution be adopted to make such assistance a reality.  The Council could, and should, later on discuss all the legal implications of the issue, but today the main concern must be to rise to the level of the moral requirements of the situation.  “We must act and we must act fast”, he said.


GUEORGUI VOLSKI (Georgia) expressed his country’s deep concern over the current situation in Iraq, in particular, its humanitarian implications.  He was saddened that the coalition had been compelled to use force as a last resort to address Iraq’s non-compliance with relevant Council resolutions, which had resulted in serious consequences, including those of a humanitarian nature.  By the same virtue, that was one more example of the consequences that could be brought about by ignoring resolutions aimed at maintaining regional or international peace and security.


Today, the international community was confronted with the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, he continued.  Notwithstanding differences in approaches within the Council, the emerging situation in Iraq required the Council to display its resolve, in particular, endorsing the proposals presented by the Secretary-General and relieving millions of Iraqis from suffering.  The Secretary-General should be provided with the necessary authority and flexibility to meet the humanitarian needs in Iraq, using existing and new resources.  The Iraqi people had to know that the international community was ready to make far-reaching steps in that respect.  It was also vitally important to restore the effectiveness and unity within the Council.


ALISHER VOHIDOV (Uzbekistan) noted with regret that the non-compliance of the Iraqi regime had led to the current conflict situation.  Under the current circumstances, he hoped that the conflict would end as soon as possible with minimum loss of life.  He was in favour of the disarmament of Iraq.  Unfortunately, the latest events in Iraq had destroyed the consensus in the Council.  However, differences should not blind the Council to the tasks at hand, namely, the disarmament of Iraq. 


The humanitarian situation in Iraq was worsening every day, he continued. The international community should take speedy measures, including supplying the population with water, food and other necessities.  He called on the Council to continue the oil-for-food programme to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.  The humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people should be met as soon as possible.  He fully supported the Secretary-General’s proposal that he be given authorization to give urgent humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi population.  He supported the efforts directed at restoring the effectiveness and unity of the Council.


GINTS JEGERMANIS (Latvia) said his country believed that everything possible must be done to avoid civilian casualties in the course of the military operation in Iraq.  Latvia would offer humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, take part in the rebuilding of the country, and work to eliminate the legacy of totalitarianism.  It supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to exploit the oil-for-food programme by adjusting it to the new situation.


The United Nations must become involved in rebuilding and establishing a democratic Iraq that was at peace with its neighbours and not in possession of weapons of mass destruction.  He was convinced that the active involvement of the United Nations during and after the current crisis in Iraq would secure the authority of the United Nations in the international community.

EDUARDO J. SEVILLA SOMOZA (Nicaragua) said it was important for the Security Council to shoulder its collective responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.  Today, he wanted to reiterate his Government’s resolute commitment to international unity.  The present situation was the outcome of Iraqi’s non-compliance with Council resolutions, which expressed the will of the United Nations.  He agreed with the Secretary-General that the time had come for the Council to regain its unity.  Action was needed on the humanitarian situation affecting the innocent people in Iraq.


Continuing, he expressed concern about the lack of food, medicine and water, as well as necessary services in Iraq.  It was important for the Council to adjust the oil-for-food programme, so that the humanitarian assistance for Iraq could be brought about in an efficient way.  The people of Nicaragua could bear witness to the importance of the United Nations as an instrument of international peace and security.  It had helped his area to come out of one of the deepest crises in history.  Since its creation, the Organization had been essential to confronting the challenges facing the international community.  It was important for the Organization to play its role now.  Nicaragua had been a victim of war, and it was prepared to provide post-conflict humanitarian assistance to Iraq, including sending experts on demining.  Building the peace was a task for all, and there should be no selfishness.


OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that he had hoped that disarming Iraq could have been done peacefully through a united approach in the Council. Unfortunately, that was not the case.  A major task now was protecting the civilian population.  Iraq and the Middle East must be ensured a stable future, based on peace and prosperity.  As the war was unfolding, the international community must be prepared to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.  Norway would increase its humanitarian assistance and participate in the reconstruction of the country.  It would also support Norwegian non-governmental organizations already active in the region.


There were considerable resources invested in the oil-for-food programme, he said.  He urged the Council to keep that programme running to meet the most immediate humanitarian needs of the population.  It should be used for alleviating the suffering of the Iraqi people and for long-term reconstruction.  It was important that the overall coordination of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction be done by the United Nations.  If the Council was to play its role for maintaining international peace and security, it was imperative to maintain its unity.  That must be the lesson learned.


MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) noted that the war raging today in Iraq was being broadcast live, in real time, and was being experienced by all.  They could see families being felled by bullets, and innocent people being arrested, injured or killed.  War was the bitter reality that made us all doubt whether the world was truly progressing in terms of values and civilization.


Force should be a last resort after all other means had been exhausted, he said.  The philosophy underpinning the United Nations renounced the unilateral use of force in its efforts to maintain international peace and security.  Those who had founded the United Nations believed that collective security was the best method against the return of expansionism.  All international and regional groups had spoken out about the Iraqi crisis and the present hostilities.  The peoples of the United Nations expected the Council to protect them from the scourge of war and suffering.  The Council could not just throw up its hands, let death strike down the innocent, and allow a land to be destroyed.  Deliberations in the Council today were indispensable, because the fate of the United Nations depended on them.


AGIM NESHO (Albania) said that his delegation was very concerned about the difficult humanitarian situation in Iraq, which was a result of the dictatorial policy and action of a regime which even in its last days was showing that it was able to sacrifice everything, including its own people, in order to stay in power.  As a member of the coalition of the free countries for the liberation of Iraq, Albania requested that regime to step aside now, to spare the people of Iraq further suffering.


Albania welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative to take the necessary measures to reactivate the oil-for-food programme, he said, and asked the members of the Council to fully support the Secretary-General by providing him with the necessary authority and flexibility to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Iraq.  Adoption by the Council of a humanitarian resolution on Iraq would serve to restore the efficiency and unity of the Council.  That was imperative, taking into account the latest events.  Now, it was time for the nations and the Council to focus on the challenges of the future, with the will and the necessary pragmatism, which would make cooperation possible.


The new Iraq would be democratic, he continued, it would live in peace and would no longer be a threat to its neighbours and the world.  By endorsing that responsibility, by fighting for a free world unthreatened by the weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, members of the coalition only remained faithful to the vision of the founders of the Organization and accomplished its goals.  As Winston Churchill once said, it was necessary to “make sure that the force of right will ultimately be protected by the right of force”.


MILOS ALCALAY (Venezuela) said that the majority of the people in the world had rejected the use of force against Iraq.  They hoped that the Council and the United Nations would take the right decisions to overcome the conflict.  Today, it was necessary to give special consideration to the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people.  Last Sunday, President Chavez had added his voice to the rejection of the war and had advocated peace.


During the Council debate on 13 March, his delegation had stated that the Iraqi crisis had to be handled peaceful and diplomatically, and that it should be achieved through dialogue, which was the appropriate way to resolve disputes.  That implied the full implementation of resolutions already adopted and compliance with forthcoming resolutions.  There was still time to avoid worse evils and room to find peace.  The Council must shoulder its responsibility in maintaining international peace and security, and reject the use of force.  Efforts now must focus on achieving an immediate ceasefire.


The best humanitarian assistance that could be provided today was to cease the use of force and return to diplomacy, he said.  The United Nations as a whole, and the Council in particular, must play its role to find a solution to the conflict.  The Council should reaffirm its commitment to international law, ensure that its decisions were respected, urge all parties to pursue diplomacy, and adopt decisions to urgently provide humanitarian assistance, coordinated through the United Nations.


THORSTEINN INGOLFSSON (Iceland) said he regretted that Iraq had had to face the serious consequences of military action.  That would not have been necessary had the Iraqi regime decided to change its attitude and cooperate immediately, actively and fully, as it was obliged to by resolution 1441 (2002).  His country had supported the coalition for the immediate disarmament of Iraq, due to its conviction that action was necessary to ensure the implementation of all relevant United Nations resolutions on the disarmament of Iraq.


He urged Members States to unite in the work ahead, and secure a full United Nations role in providing humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people and post-war reconstruction of their country.  The Iraqi people needed the full support of the international community, so that it could achieve once again prosperity, democracy, dignity and peaceful coexistence with their neighbours, after decades of dictatorship and aggression.


ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that his country, like the overwhelming majority of peoples all over the world, had advocated a peaceful solution to the crisis in Iraq.  It shared the deep conviction of all those who had cautioned against the unpredictable consequences of the use of force there, including the huge loss of life and the impact on the stability of the whole region.  With the beginning of a large-scale attack on Iraq, a sovereign country and a Member of the United Nations, the peaceful path had been abandoned.  That act of unjustified aggression, which had not been mandated by the United Nations, was a breach of international law.


According to the latest information, the number of civilian victims continued to grow, he continued.  If the war went on, it was possible to expect a large humanitarian crisis, the consequences of which would be catastrophic.  To avoid dire consequences, the international community was called upon to take urgent action in order to put an immediate end to the war.


After the end of the bipolar era, he added, many had expressed hope that it would be possible to build a better world, promoting cooperation among States.  All countries and people of the world could only welcome that.  War, on the other hand, only brought about hatred and destruction.  Countries should allow dialogue and cooperation to prevail in their relations.


BAATAR CHOISUREN (Mongolia) said the international community must now look forward in taking immediate and resolute action to resume humanitarian relief for the Iraqi people.  He had been informed that over 1.7 million people had been without water supplies for several days in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.  It had also been stated that epidemics could soon spread because of hot weather in the region.  Mongolia joined the concern expressed about the welfare of civilians caught in the conflict, especially children.  Urgent efforts should be made to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.


The United Nations had undertaken major contingency planning and would be able to start its implementation as soon as possible, he said.  Under those circumstances, the Council should take the lead and give the Secretary-General the mandate for whatever measures he might need to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe

in Iraq.  He urged members of the Council to support the Secretary-General by providing him with authority and flexibility to deal with the emerging crisis.  The single-mindedness and resolve of the Council on that issue would hopefully be a step towards the restoration of its effectiveness and unity.


GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) was extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation that had arisen in Iraq and in neighbouring countries.  He would prefer humanitarian assistance to be administered by the United Nations and supported the Secretary-General on how to organize the provision of assistance to the Iraqi population.  For now, the oil-for-food programme should continue.  He also subscribed to the appeal by the Secretary-General to the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law.  Also, the international agencies, particularly the United Nations, must play a fundamental role in helping bring about a situation where the Iraqi people themselves would take decisions regarding their future.  The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq must not be impaired.


He reiterated his faith in the multilateral agencies and the unique role of the Council.  He did not agree with those who believed that the debate within the Council in past weeks had dealt a mortal blow to that body.  It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, when members of the Council had failed to reach agreement.  Nevertheless, it would be naïve to think that the debate had not left behind wounds, even deep ones, which would require an effort by all Council members to overcome. 


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For information media. Not an official record.