Several Security Council members today called for the continuation, enhancement and acceleration of inspections in Iraq after hearing reports from two top United Nations disarmament officials on efforts to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Speaking at the outset of the ministerial-level meeting, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said given the current progress reported by the inspectors, there was no need for a second resolution declaring that Iraq had failed to take the final opportunity offered it in resolution 1441 to disarm.
He noted that the inspections could not go on forever but that the alternatives were clear, disarmament of Iraq by war or disarmament by exhausting all peaceful means. "The progress of the last few days have shown we have efficient alternatives to war in Iraq," Mr. Fischer said. "By taking this path we will strengthen the relevance of the United Nations and the Security Council."
Mr. Farouk Al-Shara
Syria’s Foreign Minister, Farouk Al-Shara, also noted the elements in the inspectors’ report that referred to recent Iraqi cooperation. “If Security Council resolution 1441 does not set a time frame for the inspectors’ work, what then could be the background for the arguments that the time is up and that Iraq had only days left to comply or else?” he asked.
Mr. Luis Ernesto Derbez
Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez of Mexico regretted Iraq's "lack of active, immediate and effective cooperation," called on it to "radically change its attitude" and stressed the need to search for the widest consensus among Council members. "Mexico is convinced that we have to explore all paths and take advantage of all opportunities to solve this issue through a peaceful way," he said.
Mr. Igor S. Ivanov
For his part, Igor Ivanov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, asked whether it was now reasonable, in view of the reported progress, to halt the inspections, adding that the Council did not need new resolutions. "We have enough of those," he said. "We now need active support of the inspectors as they carry out their tasks."
Mr. Dominique de Villepin
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said France, as a permanent member of the Security Council, would not allow passage of a resolution that automatically authorized use of force. He proposed a three-point plan for continued inspections: that inspectors set a priority list of disarmament tasks, that they give a progress report every three weeks and that full implementation be assessed after 120 days as prescribed by Council resolution 1284, or even sooner if inspectors deem it feasible."The military agenda must not dictate the calendar of inspections," Mr. Villepin said. "We agree to timetables and to an accelerated calendar. But we cannot accept an ultimatum as the inspectors are reporting cooperation. That would mean war."
Mr. Tang Jiaxuan
The Foreign Minister of China, Tang Jiaxuan, noted the progress reported by the inspectors and urged Iraq to show fuller cooperation. "We believe that as long as we stick to the road of political settlement, the goal of destroying Iraq's WMD could still be obtained," he said. "Under the current circumstances there is no reason to shut the door to peace. Therefore we are not in favour of a new resolution, particularly one authorizing the use of force."
Ms. Soledad Alvear Valenzuela
Soledad Alvear Valenzuela, Foreign Minister of Chile, called on Iraq to cooperate more fully, saying that even at this late stage, its attitude was insufficient. But today's reports indicated that a peaceful resolution was still possible through strengthening inspections with clear deadlines and demands, she added.Angolan Deputy Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti noted that Iraqi cooperation remained relatively insufficient and that progress normally occurred when associated with specific benchmarks and dates. "Such an endeavour appears to be, under the present circumstances, the most suitable way to maintain the Council's unity, to uphold a course that can lead to a peaceful solution of the crisis, and spare the Iraqi people, the region and the world from an armed conflict and its dangerous consequences," he said.
Cameroon's Permanent Representative to the UN, Martin Belinga-Eboutou, said the viability of inspections rested on unconditional Iraqi cooperation but the inspections could not go on indefinitely. Appealing to the Council to unite, he said a credible alternative to war must be sought. The Iraqi authorities must be compelled to comply unconditionally and fully.
Ambassador Stefan Tafrov of Bulgaria said recent progress would have been impossible without the threat of military force and the presence of a large number of US and British troops that made that pressure credible. Bulgaria would therefore support the resolution declaring that Iraq had failed to take the final opportunity to disarm as an effective means to further pressure Baghdad.
Mr. Munir Akram
Munir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, said Iraq must fully comply and the best assurance for success of peaceful disarmament was Council unity, but he added that there was no imminent threat to international peace and security. "The cost of delay would be much less than the cost of war," he said.
Mr. Francois Lonseny Fall
Foreign Minister François Lonsény Fall of Guinea, which holds the Council Presidency this month, said he would strive to ensure consensus. Guinea was in favour of inspections but understood that they could not go on indefinitely. He believed that if the Council managed the crisis in an effective manner, its credibility would be enhanced.
Mr. Mohammed A. Aldouri
Addressing the Council at the end of its discussion, Ambassador Mohammed A. Aldouri of Iraq said the inspectors had borne out Iraq's contention that it had no WMDs. The real reason for military force was to take over Iraq's oil and dominate the Arab region politically and economically, he added."The possibilities of launching a war of aggression against Iraq have become imminent despite what the Security Council will decide and in spite of the official and public international stance strongly rejecting aggression and war and demanding a peaceful solution," he said.