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Annan stresses unity, exhausting all avenues of peace in dealing with Iraq

Annan stresses unity, exhausting all avenues of peace in dealing with Iraq

Stressing the importance of a united Security Council as it ponders the next steps in dealing with the disarmament of Iraq, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today reiterated his belief that all possibilities of a peaceful settlement should be exhausted before resorting to the use of force.

“If we succeed in getting Iraq to comply fully and disarm, by effective and credible inspections, then the prize is great,” the Secretary-General said in an address this morning to the College of William & Mary in Virginia, where he was awarded an honorary degree during the school’s celebration marking the 310th anniversary of its charter.

“Iraq would no longer be a threat to its neighbours, and we would send a very powerful message to all other countries that are tempted to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction,” he added. “We would strengthen the non-proliferation regime throughout the world.”

The Secretary-General noted that the disarmament of Iraq was not an issue for one country alone, but for the international community as a whole. “When States decide to use force, not in self-defence but to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations Security Council,” he said. “States and peoples around the world attach fundamental importance to such legitimacy, and to the international rule of law.”

In citing the “horror” threatened by weapons of mass destruction, an issue confined not just to Iraq, Mr. Annan said it was vitally important the entire international community carefully re-examine the foundations of its security in a united way. “Only a collective, multilateral approach can effectively curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and make the world a safer place,” he said. “Nothing would undermine that goal more fatally than the actual use of weapons of mass destruction.”

He recalled that it was due in large part to the firm challenge issued by United States President George W. Bush – and the pressure that followed it – that UN inspectors have returned to Iraq after a nearly four-year absence, backed by the power of a unanimous Security Council resolution giving them a new, more authoritative and robust mandate.

With that unanimity in the international community – a message conveyed by a united Security Council, by the Arab League and by Iraq’s neighbours – the Secretary-General warned that if Iraq fails to make use of this last chance to disarm and continues its defiance, the Council will have to make another grim choice, based on the findings of the UN inspectors. “When that time comes, the Council must face up to its responsibilities,” Mr. Annan said.

“In my experience, it always does so best and most effectively when its members work in unison,” he said, underscoring that the Council should proceed in a determined, reflective, deliberative manner. “Its measures must be seen as firm, effective, credible and reasonable – not only by the Council members, but by the public at large.”

He added: “The broader our consensus on Iraq, the better the chance that we can come together again and deal effectively with other burning conflicts in the world. These conflicts cause untold suffering, and urgently need our attention: from Israel and Palestine to Congo and Côte d’Ivoire, not to mention our efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.”

Even beyond that, the Secretary-General said, the United Nations has a wider international agenda, set when the world’s leaders came together in 2000 and adopted the Millennium Declaration, which established clear targets – not only for peace, security and disarmament but for a host of other global ills. “It is by our success or failure in fulfilling those Millennium Goals, and not just in Iraq, that the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century should be assessed,” he said.