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NZ To UN: The situation between Iraq and Kuwait

October 2002 Speech
United Nations Security Council - Open debate on "The situation between Iraq and Kuwait"

Statement by the NZ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Don MacKay

16 October 2002


Mr President

New Zealand welcomes this open debate. The issues being considered by the Security Council are of vital importance to us all. They are about how the international community deals with threats to regional and global peace and security, and about the role and credibility of the United Nations.

We approach this debate with a number of givens.

First, Iraq needs to comply with the Security Council’s demands for inspection for weapons of mass destruction.

Second, Security Council resolutions cannot be constantly flouted with impunity;

Third, the United Nations Charter, as the pre-eminent international legal instrument, sets out the proper multilateral process for dealing with threats to international peace and security;

Fourth, if Iraq fails to fully comply with the inspection regime, the Council will need to take a clear decision on further action.

Let me address each of these in turn.

First, Iraq has consistently ignored Security Council demands for inspection for weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq has in the past used chemical weapons against its neighbours and against its own people. It has possessed biological weapons. There are strong grounds to suspect that it has sought the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Iraq has been in breach of international disarmament treaties to which it is a party. Without inspection the Security Council cannot be sure that Iraq does not possess or has no intention to develop these weapons.

When the Government of Iraq signed the Gulf War cease-fire agreement in 1991, it unconditionally accepted the terms of Security Council Resolution 687 requiring “the destruction and removal, under international supervision” of all of its weapons of mass destruction. Since then, Iraq has consistently violated these commitments – making false declarations of its weapons capabilities, and repeatedly obstructing the work of mandated weapons inspectors.

Second, Security Council resolutions cannot constantly be flouted with impunity.

As a state which is strongly committed to the multilateral system New Zealand believes that States must comply with Security Council resolutions. It must be clear to Iraq that there will be serious consequences, if it does not do so.

The international community will therefore be watching very closely to see how Iraq fulfils its obligations. If Iraq fails to meet them, then we expect the Security Council to take firm action.

In saying this New Zealand proceeds from a longstanding position of support for the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

Third, the United Nations Charter, as the pre-eminent international legal instrument, sets out the proper multilateral process for dealing with threats to international peace and security.

As a first step, it is essential that weapons inspectors are immediately readmitted so that the Council can effectively assess the state, nature and extent of Iraq’s weapons programme. New Zealand has offered to provide a support group to the inspection team for this purpose.

This requires full cooperation and unrestricted access by Iraq. Should Iraq not comply with its obligations any decision on further action should come back to the Council for consideration. It is the Security Council which must remain the arbiter of Iraq’s compliance, based on UNMOVIC’s reporting and assessments. It is the Council’s proper role to make such decisions. Any resolution, or resolutions, adopted by the Council should reflect this.

Clarity will be important. The rules governing Iraq’s compliance must be clear to the Security Council, to Iraq and to UNMOVIC. There should be no room for misunderstanding or reinterpretation. In setting conditions for compliance it is important that the inspection process remains credible. Equally the Council must ensure these conditions are not couched in such a way that Iraq cannot comply. The rules must strengthen the hand of the inspectors, not make their already difficult task more onerous.

We note that there has been a suggestion to give a special role in the inspection regime, to the permanent members of the Security Council. It is true that under the Charter the P5 have certain voting privileges and responsibilities but substantively they are not distinct from other Council members. Introducing such a distinction here would be neither constructive nor acceptable.

Fourth, if Iraq fails to comply with the inspection regime, the Council will need to take a clear decision on further action.

Iraq cannot fail to be aware of the strengthening of resolve on the Council’s part.

In the event of Iraqi non-compliance, the use of force is clearly not beyond the Council’s contemplation. This would mean a significant loss of lives, including the lives of innocent Iraqis. There would be a risk of instability within the region and beyond, particularly as the use of force is likely to be perceived by some – however wrongly – as having an ethnic or religious dimension. There is also the question of what happens in Iraq afterwards. Some of these risks may be alleviated by the Council providing a firm and united front, so that this action is clearly seen to be taken on behalf of the international community at large. It is therefore important that decisions on future action are taken by a united Council acting as a whole.

Finally, Mr President, may I make two brief comments. It is regrettable that such momentous decisions have to be contemplated at a time when other Security Council resolutions remain unimplemented in the Middle East, and in the absence of a comprehensive settlement there. It is also regrettable that this issue should face us when the multilateral disarmament environment, and progress towards the elimination of weapons of mass destruction more generally, is disappointing. This setting will not make the Council’s task in maintaining international peace and security – or the situation of governments in the region – any easier.

Thank you, Mr President.

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