Iraq: Security Council ends mandate of United Nations weapons inspectors
Closing a chapter it opened over 16 years ago, the Security Council today terminated the mandate of United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq, with the Russian Federation abstaining during voting on a resolution sponsored by the United Kingdom and the United States.
The resolution, which passed with 14 votes in favour, immediately terminated the mandates of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the Security Council-mandated work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iraq.
Explaining the Russian Federation’s decision to abstain, the country’s Ambassador, Speaking after the vote, Vitaly Churkin said there had yet been no definitive statement about the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.
The Council resolution said the continued operations of UNMOVIC and the IAEA’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office are no longer necessary to verify Iraqi compliance with its obligations.
The resolution “closes a cycle of many years of verification, where the UN showed that it can implement successfully the activities demanded by the international community despite difficulties and frequently a lack of cooperation from the inspected party,” said UNMOVIC’s Acting Executive Chairman, Demetrius Perricos, in an address to the Council.
Mr. Perricos warned against complacency. “In the present security environment of Iraq, the possibility should not be discounted that non-State actors may seek to acquire toxic agents or their chemical precursors in small quantities,” he said. “The possibility of non-State actors getting their hands on other – more toxic – agents is real.”
He also pointed out that the main finding of the US-led Iraq Survey Group’s Comprehensive Report, “namely the absence of any stockpiles of WMD or evidence of a revival of WMD-related programmes proscribed under the Security Council resolutions,” corresponded to conclusions reported by UNMOVIC to the Council in June 2003.
Also addressing the Council, Gustavo Zlauvinen, a representative of the IAEA Director-General, recalled in early March of 2003, he had told the Council that the IAEA had found “no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq.”
A detailed assessment could have been produced within months of that date, he added, but the IAEA has not been able to carry out its mandate since 17 March. That was the date when the withdrawal of UN staff from Iraq was announced. Days later, the war broke out.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq noted that the weapons inspectors accomplished a great deal on the ground both in terms of monitoring and in terms of destroying or verifying the destruction of WMDs before their work was interrupted by the war in 2003.
He said UNMOVIC’s just-released 1,160-page Compendium of Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes in the Chemical, Biological and Missile areas is “the best testament to the work of the Commission and its value.”
The Council’s resolution today requested the Secretary-General “to take all necessary measures to provide for the appropriate disposition of UNMOVIC’s archives and other property under arrangements ensuring, in particular, that sensitive proliferation information or information provided in confidence by Member States is kept under strict control.”
UNMOVIC’s predecessor, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), set up at the end of the war in 1991, destroyed missiles, mobile launchers, fixed launch sites, chemical munitions, a chemical weapons complex and a germ warfare complex as well as tons of missile fuel, chemical warfare agents, precursor chemicals and bacteria growth media. UNMOVIC inspectors destroyed dozens of Iraqi Al Samoud 2 missiles and warheads, as well as launchers, shells filled with chemical weapons precursors and other arms.