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This Issue Is Not Just About Iraq

This Issue Is Not Just About Iraq

Statement by British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to the United Nations Security Councim, New York, Friday, February 14, 2003. Source: FCO, London (E-S Photo).

I'd like, in opening, Mr President, to thank Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei for their reports and to express my very great appreciation to them and to their inspection teams for their great efforts in the face of what I think is still very clear, Iraq's failure, fully and actively, to comply with Resolution 1441.

Mr President, the issue before us could not be graver. It is about the authority of the United Nations and about the responsibility of the Security Council for international peace and security.

Just three months ago, on 8 November, we unanimously agreed Resolution 1441, tabled by the United States and ourselves. We said then that Iraq's proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, of long-range missiles and its non-compliance with Council resolutions was a threat to international peace and security.

Now, we all know that they've had these weapons. That's why we said that Iraq had them, why all five permanent members, all 10 elected members, said the same thing. We knew that the issue was not whether Iraq had them, but whether Iraq was actively cooperating to get rid of them.

And we emphasized that Iraq had been found guilty 12 years ago by the world community. This was just reminding ourselves that Iraq is the only country in the world which has launched missile attacks on five of its neighbours, invaded two of its neighbours, both Muslim, and killed, without any justification, hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iran, in Kuwait and in Iraq itself.

Dr Blix, in his report, refers to the decisions which were made in 1991, and he said regrettably the high degree of cooperation required by this Council of Iraq for disarmament through inspection was not forthcoming in 1991.

And it is worth reminding ourselves when we discuss this issue of time scales that on the 3rd of April 1991, this Council gave Iraq 90 days to disarm, by 2 July 1991. And in the 11 years, 7 months and 12 days, quite a long of time, since the Council's deadline to Iraq ran out, what is it that they've done? Well, they've lied, they've concealed, they've played games. A game of catcher's catch can, as Dr Blix told us on 27 January.

Saddam said for four years that he had no biological weapons program, no anthrax bacillus, no smallpox virus, no VX nerve agent. And indeed, the inspectors found absolutely nothing. It took the defection of Saddam's own son-in-law to uncover Saddam's biological weapons program, more terrible than anybody had thought.

And to bring us up to date, as Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei spelled out in their report on 27 January, Iraq has failed to account for thousands of tons of chemical weapons and precursor chemicals, of shells and bombs for anthrax, for mustard gas, for VX nerve agent. They have failed to make a full and complete disclousre as required of them on 7 December, failed to cooperate fully and actively on substance, as well as on process with the inspectors, and failed substantively to meet the obligations imposed on them.

Now, I've listened with very great care to the colleagues who've spoken so far. And we all agreed on the importance of 1441, and it was striking that nobody who's spoken so far - and I warrant that nobody who speaks after me - that nobody has spoken so far has suggested for a second that Iraq is fully and actively complying with the obligations that we imposed on him and on them on 8 November of last year. So Iraq's material breaches, which we spelled out on 8 November, are still there.

Now, in that regard, I'd be glad to put these questions to the inspectors. Why did Dr Blix think that Iraq has refurbished equipment, like the engine casting chambers at Al Mahmoun and the chemical processing equipment at Fallujah, both of which were destroyed by UNSCOM because they were prohibited?

Since the last report, how many interviews have taken place with the officials which the inspectors have asked to interview? How many in places which the two inspectors are sure have not subject to electronic interception and bugging by Iraq?

Has any of the outstanding material identified by UNSCOM in early 1999 - the missing 8,500 liters of anthrax, the one and a half tons of VX nerve agent, the 6,500 chemical bombs - been satisfactorily dealt with by Iraq? Do recent documents provided by Iraq give any serious evidence for this?

As for the nuclear dossier, how many of the IAEA's open issues has it been able to close through Iraq's cooperation?

Mr President, I thought that the most significant point made by Dr Blix in his report, which has subsequently been echoed by everyone who has spoken so far, was his closing remarks when he said, 'Three months after the adoption of Resolution 1441, the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short if the immediate, active and unconditional cooperation with UNMOVIC and the IAEA were to be forthcoming.' I take those words to mean that Iraq has yet to be forthcoming with that immediate, active and unconditional cooperation.

And I'd like to ask Dr Blix, picking up a phrase from his report of 27 January, whether he believes that Iraq has yet come to a genuine acceptance of the disarmament which has been demanded of it.

Mr President, the issue before us is of the authority of the UN and of the defiance of the United Nations resolutions. On 8 November, we said unanimously that Saddam was to have a final opportunity. Can anyone say, does anyone truly believe here that he has yet taken that final opportunity?

Like every other member of this Council and, I believe, of the international community, I hope and believe that a peaceful solution to this crisis may still be possible. But this will require a dramatic and immediate change by Saddam.

And this will only be achieved if we, the Security Council, hold our nerve in the face of this tyrant, give meaning to our words and to the decisions which we've already collectively taken, and make ourselves ready to ensure that Iraq will face the serious consequences which we all decided would have to happen if Iraq's defiance did not end.

And, Mr President, I want to close by saying this. This period of 12 years since 687 was passed on 3 April 1991 has frankly been a period of humiliation for this body, for this Security Council and for the United Nations, as games have been played with the Security Council's authority.

And the period after the inspectors were kicked out effectively by Iraq at the end of 1998 until 8 November will hardly be described as the best in the Security Council's history, because Iraq was in open defiance of the United Nations and nothing effectively was being done about its weapons of mass destruction.

I am proud that with the United States, the United Kingdom took the initiative on this issue and tabled what became 1441. And I'm glad to note the progress on process that has been made. I'm glad to note that, notwithstanding a clear statement by the government of Iraq on 10 September last year that the inspectors would never go back into Iraq, inspectors have now gone back into Iraq, and we note the progress on process that has been made.

But I also say this, that in securing a peaceful conclusion to this crisis, as all we must, I know and I think everybody else here knows that we have only got to this stage by doing what the United Nations charter requires of us, which is to back a diplomatic process with a credible threat of force and also, if necessary, to be ready to use that threat of force.

And if we back away from that, if we decide to give unlimited time for little or no cooperation on substance, then the disarmament of Iraq and the peace and security of the international community, for which we are responsible, will not get any easier, but very much harder.

And this issue is not just about Iraq, it's how we deal with proliferators elsewhere across the globe. And if we send out the message to proliferators the world over that the defiance of the United Nations pays, then it will not be peace that we will have secured.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).