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Security Council Members Call For More Inspections

Security Council hears repeated calls for more time for UN inspections in Iraq

After United States Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the Security Council US evidence of Iraq's failure to destroy illicit weapons, several members of the Council voiced their strong support for the continuation of United Nations inspections and urged Baghdad to cooperate proactively in the process.

"Why go to war if there still exists an unused space in resolution 1441?" Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France said, referring to the Council's text adopted last November authorizing the resumption of UN inspections in Iraq after a nearly four-year hiatus. "Let us double or even triple the number of inspectors," he added, stressing that no opportunity should be lost to strengthen the operational effectiveness of the inspections process. Mr. de Villepin noted, however, that there were still "grey areas" in Iraq's cooperation with the inspections, such as the unresolved questions in the ballistic, chemical and biological areas. If that path failed and led into a dead-end, then "France rules out no option, including the use of force as a last resort, to ensure Iraqi compliance," he said.

Mr. de Villepin was among the 11 Foreign Ministers who took part in the open meeting, which was chaired by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany, the Council's President for the month of February. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and the chief UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also attended the session.

Tang Jiaxuan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said the Council had basically maintained unity and cooperation on the Iraqi issue, which was critically important. "As long as there is still the slightest hope for political settlement, the utmost effort should be exerted to achieve it," he said, noting that the inspections had been ongoing for some two months, and the chief inspectors themselves had suggested continuing inspections. That suggestion should be respected, Mr. Tang said, adding that he hoped the upcoming visit to Baghdad by the head of UNMOVIC and IAEA would yield positive results. He stressed that it was also the universal desire of the international community to see a political settlement to the issue within the UN framework, and to avoid any war. China, he said, was ready to join others in working in that direction.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the unanimous adoption of resolution 1441 and the deployment of international inspectors demonstrated the ability of the international community to act together in the interest of obtaining a common goal. Russia is convinced, he said, that maintaining the unity of the world community and of the Council are the best ways to achieve a political end to the situation of weapons of mass destruction. "That we all want an end to such weapons should not be doubted," he underscored. With that in mind, the UN experts must immediately begin reviewing the information presented today. "Iraq must give the inspectors answers to the questions by Secretary Powell. The Council must do everything [it] can to support the inspections process," he stressed.

For his part, Francois-Xavier Ngoubeyou, Cameroon's Minister of External Relations, wondered if in such "grave circumstances" the time had come for the Council to ask UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to go to Iraq to speak with President Saddam Hussein on urgent ways to resolve the present situation. The information presented today was certainly troubling, Mr. Ngoubeyou said, and it was now up to the Council to make the best use of it, in the spirit of the process provided by resolution 1441. The data just produced could facilitate the inspections, he stressed, suggesting that it would be wise to provide the inspectors with that information and give them more time to do their job. Cameroon recommended the continuation and implementation of forceful and robust action to compel Iraq to cooperate fully with the inspection teams.

Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez of Mexico said his country's position had been unequivocally aimed at achieving the disarmament of Iraq in the most effective way possible and by peaceful means, while ensuring at all times that that goal was achieved at the lowest cost in terms of human suffering and economic instability, without undermining the urgent battle against international terrorism. Citing Mexico's confidence in the inspections process, Mr. Derbez said he was in favour of intensifying and strengthening those inspections, as well as the assistance that Council members and the international community in general could provide to UNMOVIC and IAEA to successfully accomplish their delicate mission.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Kurshid M. Kasuri, said that while the world community was justified in seeking to bring about Iraq's compliance with relevant Council resolutions as soon as possible, it could not ignore other elements that arose in the context of security, such as ameliorating the suffering and ensuring the welfare of the Iraqi people; preserving the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq; and preserving the political and economic stability of the region. He welcomed the US's initiative to work through the UN, and called Mr. Powell's extensive presentation a significant step forward as the Council sought to secure full implementation of its resolutions regarding Iraq's disarmament. The information provided enhanced the ability of the inspectors to identify areas of concerns and to pursue more specific lines of action.

Resolution 1441 gave Iraq a last opportunity to fulfil its disarmament obligations, but the Iraqi regime was now bringing its people into greater suffering, Chile’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Soledad Alvear Valenzuela said, adding that attempts at partial compliance and efforts to deceive or obstruct the process were violations of the Council’s previous resolutions. “We are entering a crucial stage in a situation involving many fears concerning the region and the world,” she said, expressing concern about the consequences of ending the use of diplomatic channels. The day’s presentation demanded action and information from Iraq without any delay or hesitations, she said, stressing that the accusations levelled today required urgent and precise clarification. To that end, inspections should continue. The Foreign Minister also appealed to Iraq to consider its responsibilities to the Council and to the preservation of international peace.

Foreign Minister Fischer of Germany said it was now decisive that the inspectors were also provided with extensive material in order to be able to clarify the unresolved questions quickly and fully. He said that several States suspected that Saddam Hussein's regime was withholding relevant information and concealing military capabilities. That strong suspicion must be dispelled beyond any doubt. At the same time, the dangers of military action were plain to see, he stressed, adding that a peaceful solution must continue to be sought and the instruments of inspection and control should be toughened. Mr. Fischer said that the French delegation had made some very interesting proposals on that matter, which deserved further consideration. Moreover, diplomatic efforts under way by States in the region to bring the Iraqi Government to fully implement the resolutions should be supported, he said. Iraq should disarm openly, peacefully and in cooperation with the inspectors, without any delay.

Georges Rebelo Chikoti, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Angola, said the information presented today introduced new elements, further strengthening the importance of monitoring the situation within the framework of the Council. He strongly urged Iraq to do much more - especially given that its substantive cooperation was an obligation - saying the Council needed clear and unambiguous answers from Iraq to the outstanding questions raised by the inspectors. Strengthening the inspections and enlarging their scope would be an ideal way to enhance their efficiency. If the inspections enjoyed the full political support of the Council and the international community, and given adequate time, they could be a powerful tool in the common endeavour to disarm Iraq, avert war and reinforce international peace and security, he underscored.

Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe of Syria pointed out that it would be incorrect to believe that inspections in any part of the world could be free from obstacles and problems. Referring to last week's briefing by the chief UN inspectors, he said it was important to ask if the difficulties encountered in Iraq were serious enough to warrant war. Noting that Iraq had expressed its readiness to cooperate with inspections and arrive at a peaceful solution, he said Iraq and the inspectors should work out a common denominator of cooperation in order to clarify the situation, as soon as possible. The continuation of the work of the inspectors would definitely lead to building confidence in the region. Syria was calling on the Council to continue to endorse the work of the inspectors and give them sufficient time to carry out their mandate under resolution 1441, he stressed.

Guinea's Ambassador to the UN, Mamady Traoré, said that while the promise of better cooperation was encouraging, Iraqi authorities must translate that promise into verifiable action. In his view, the possibility of the suspension or lifting of sanctions should encourage Iraq to fully cooperate with inspectors. The existence of grey areas on the one hand and progress made on the other indicated that inspections must go on, Ambassador Traoré stressed, adding that his country had always stressed peaceful settlement of the matter. There were still chances for a peaceful settlement, and those chances must be grasped. "Today, we are witnessing a crucial stage for maintenance of international peace and security," he said. "We must work in unity to build a world of peace and cooperation."

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