The ongoing debate over how to proceed with the disarmament of Iraq continued today as the Security Council convened an open meeting to hear the views of some 60 non-Council members on the matter.
Speaking at the outset of the debate on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Permanent Representative of South Africa, Dumisani Kumalo, said the 115 Member States and 15 Observer States of the United Nations who belonged to NAM had requested the meeting because the Council was engaged in a crucial debate that had important repercussions for the entire international community.
"To us, [Security Council] resolution 1441 was - and still is - about ensuring that Iraq is peacefully disarmed," Ambassador Kumalo said.
Recalling the update last Friday by the UN's lead inspectors, Ambassador Kumalo stressed that inspections were continuing apace and the inspectors themselves were receiving renewed cooperation from the Iraqi Government. None of the information presented during last week's or previous reports would justify the Council's abandoning of the inspections process and resort to war, he added.
"Resorting to war without fully exhausting all other options represents an admission of failure by the Security Council in carrying out its mandate of maintaining international peace and security," Ambassador Kumalo said, urging the 15-nation body to redouble its efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to the situation.
Continuing the discussion, Ambassador Mohammed A. Aldouri of Iraq said his country's record of compliance with Security Council resolutions is "unprecedented in this international organization or in the history of international relations." Iraq's active cooperation since agreeing last October to the return of UN inspectors had resulted in the refutation of all allegations from the United States and Britain, he added.
"Reason and wisdom make it incumbent upon us to ask if there is any justification for the United States and Britain to launch war against Iraq under the pretext of their concern about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, even at a time when Iraq is under an ongoing monitoring and verification system," Ambassador Aldouri said.
He called on all Member States to shoulder their responsibilities under the UN Charter to put an end to the unjust embargo, eliminate the unilaterally imposed no-flight zones and heed the call for peace of the millions of people around the world expressed over the weekend.
For his part, Yahya Mahmassani, the Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, said the reports of the chief UN weapons inspectors last week confirmed some positive achievements in the inspections process. The reports also confirmed cooperation by Iraq, which reinforced the notion that such operations should continue until "such a day when the Iraqi file could be closed and the sanction lifted."
In light of those conclusions by the inspectors - who are the only legitimate authorities entrusted with the verification or submission of evidence of proscribed weapons to the Security Council - there is no justification to wage a war against Iraq, Mr. Mahmassani said. "Where is the immediate danger that Iraq poses to the world to warrant a war?" he asked.
The Permanent Observer recalled that the League of Arab States met in Cairo last week and confirmed Arab countries' rejection of threats to any Arab States or its security. He said the League hoped that the end of the last century's Cold War would not be the beginning of "hot wars" in the new century - beginning with a war in Iraq. Any such war would amount to a failure of the Security Council and the international system, as well as a challenge to the Charter of the United Nations, the main safeguard that protects the world's weakest countries and ensured international peace and security, he stressed.
After hearing from representatives of more than 20 countries, the Council was expected to suspend its meeting and reconvene tomorrow to accommodate the remaining speakers.