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UK Foreign Secretary Address to UN on Iraq

UK Foreign Secretary's Statement To The UN Security Council On Iraq

Mr President, we have just heard a most powerful and authoritative case against the Iraqi regime set out by Secretary Powell. The international community owes him its thanks for laying bare the deceit practised by the regime of Saddam Hussein, and worse, the great danger it represents. Three months ago we united to send Iraq an uncompromising message: co-operate fully with weapons inspectors or face disarmament by force.

After years of Iraqi deception when resolutions were consistently flouted, Resolution 1441 was a powerful reminder of the importance of international law and of the authority of the Security Council itself.

United and determined, we gave Iraq a final opportunity to rid itself of its weapons of mass terror, of gases which can poison thousands in one go; of bacilli and viruses like anthrax and smallpox which can disable and kill by the tens of thousands; of the means to make nuclear weapons which can kill by the million.

By 1441 we strengthened inspections massively. The only missing ingredient was full Iraqi compliance - immediate, full and active cooperation. Without that full and active co-operation, inspections in a country as huge as Iraq, however strong the inspectors’ powers, could never be sure of finding all Iraqi WMD. Sadly the inspectors’ reports last week and Secretary Powell's presentation today can leave us under no illusions about Saddam Hussein's response. Saddam Hussein holds UNSCR 1441 in the same contempt as all previous resolutions in respect of Iraq. Let us reflect on what that means - that Saddam is defying every one of us, every nation here represented. He questions our resolve and is gambling that we will lose our nerve rather than enforce our will.

Paragraph 1 of 1441 said that Saddam was and remained in material breach of Security Council resolutions. Paragraph 4 of UNSCR 1441 set two clear tests for a further material breach by Iraq. First that Iraq must not make 'false statements' or 'omissions' in its declaration. But the Iraqi document submitted to us on 7 December as we have heard from Secretary Powell, was long on repetition, but short on fact. It was neither full, nor accurate, nor complete. By anyone's definition, it was a 'false statement'. Its central premise - that Iraq possesses no weapons of mass destruction - is a lie. This outright lie was repeated yesterday on television by Saddam Hussein. The declaration has obvious omissions, not least a failure to explain what has happened to the large quantities of chemical and biological weapons materiel and munitions unaccounted for by UN inspectors in 1998. And there is no admission of Iraq's extensive efforts to develop WMD since the last round of UNSCOM inspections ended in December 1998.

Paragraph 4 goes on to set a second test for a further material breach, namely a 'failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and co-operate fully in the implementation' of Resolution 1441. Following the presentations by the inspectors last week, and today's briefing by Secretary Powell, it is clear that Iraq has failed this test. These briefings have confirmed our worst fears - that Iraq has no intention of relinquishing its WMD, no intention of following the path of peaceful disarmament set out in Security Council Resolution 1441. Instead of open admissions and transparency, we have a charade, where a veneer of superficial co-operation masks wilful concealment, the extent of which has been devastatingly revealed this morning by Secretary Powell.

In his report last week, Dr Blix set out a number of instances where Iraqi behaviour reveals a determination to avoid compliance.

Why is Iraq refusing to allow UNMOVIC to use a U2 plane to conduct aerial imagery and surveillance operations?

When will Iraq account for 6,500 bombs which could carry up to 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent?

How will Iraq justify having a prohibited chemical precursor for mustard gas?

And how will Iraq explain the concealment of nuclear documents and the development of a missile programme in clear contravention of United Nations resolutions?

There is only one possible conclusion: Iraq is in further material breach as set out in UNSCR 1441. Security Council members will share my deep sense of frustration that Iraq is choosing to spurn this final opportunity to achieve a peaceful outcome.

Mr President, given what has to follow, and the difficult choice now facing us, it would be easy to turn a blind eye to the wording of Resolution 1441 and hope for a change of heart by Iraq. Easy but wrong. Because if we did so we would be repeating the mistakes of the past 12 years, and empowering a dictator who believes his diseases and poison gases are essential weapons to suppress his own people and to threaten his neighbours, and that by defiance of the UN he can indefinitely hoodwink the world.

Mr President, under the French Presidency two weeks ago we had a special session on the dangers of international terrorism, of the grave danger to the world of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction through the connivance of rogue states. Secretary Powell has today set out deeply worrying reports about the presence in Iraq of one of Osama bin Laden's lieutenants, Al Zarqawi, and other members of Al Qaida, and their efforts to develop poisons. It defies imagination that all of this could be going on without the knowledge of Saddam Hussein. The recent discovery of the poison Ricin in London has underlined again that this is a threat we all face.

Mr President, Saddam must be left in no doubt as to the serious consequences and serious situation he now faces. The United Kingdom does not want war. We want the UN system to be upheld. But the logic of Resolution 1441 is inescapable: time is now very short. This Council will have further reports from the inspectors on Friday week 14 February. If non-cooperation continues, this Council must meet its responsibilities.

Our world faces many threats, from poverty and disease to civil war and terrorism. Working through this great institution, we have the capacity to tackle these challenges together. But if we are to do so then the decisions we have to take must have a force beyond mere words.

This is a moment of choice for Saddam and for the Iraqi regime. But it is also a moment of choice for this institution, the United Nations. The UN's pre-war predecessor, the League of Nations, had the same fine ideals as the UN. But the League failed because it could not create actions from its words; it could not back diplomacy with the credible threat and where necessary the use of force; so small evils went unchecked, tyrants became emboldened, then greater evils were unleashed. At each stage good men said wait; the evil is not big enough to challenge: then before their eyes, the evil became too big to challenge. We had slipped slowly down a slope, never noticing how far we had gone until it was too late. We owe it to our history as well as to our future not to make the same mistake again.

© Scoop Media

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