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Germany Warns Against Military Action on Iraq

Fischer: We need a system of global security based on cooperation

In a speech given to the UN Security Council on January 20 Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer appealed to the international community to show unity, prudence, and determination in the fight against terrorism. Fischer warned against risks that could accompany military action against Iraq and presented arguments to substantiate the German government's rejection of a war option.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and twelve other foreign ministers were present at a UN Security Council meeting held on January 20 under the presidency of French Foreign Minister Villepin. The meeting focused on the need to strengthen international efforts and mechanisms in the fight against terrorism in the wake of the bomb attacks carried out in Bali, Moscow, and Mombasa.

Fischer emphasized the need to fight terrorism with police activity and preventive measures. He stated that the antiterrorism coalition in the UN framework had proven to be effective and needed to be expanded. He said as many UN member countries as possible should sign the twelve antiterrorism conventions, incorporate them into their national legislation, and apply them systematically. He expressed support for the continued use of sanctions against Al Qaida and the Taliban as well as efforts to choke off their finances. At the same time he advocated intercultural dialogue, respect of human rights, as well as an expansion of the existing legal framework, including the arms control and non-proliferation regimes. He referred to the heightened threat to the international community caused by the ability of terrorists to obtain dangerous substances and high-tech equipment with global financing networks fed by profits from organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, and arms trading. He said there was a need to help poor countries improve and reform their police and justice systems.

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In light of the current debate with regard to the right approach to take in implementing the renewed demand expressed in UN Security Council Resolution 1441 for full elimination of any remaining weapons of mass destruction in Iraq Fischer used his Security Council speech to reiterate the German government's preference for peaceful disarmament. He warned against risks that a military attack on Iraq could create for the continued existence of the antiterror coalition as well as for stability in the region, adding that Germany would not take part in a military operation for these reasons.

In a television interview broadcast on the evening of January 20 Fischer said the majority view is that the weapons inspectors are doing an excellent job and that they should continue to carry out their work. He noted that Iraq was under massive pressure with some 400 inspections having been carried out thus far. Fischer observed that the inspectors have had free access to the facilities they want to inspect but that Iraq needs to cooperate more proactively with the inspectors. "This is precisely what we want to achieve. In my view - and this is something I have also heard from many of my colleagues - it would not make much sense to break off this process and move towards a military confrontation at the present time."

Fischer’s Speech:

Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Fischer to the United Nations Security Council, New York, 20 January 2003

Mr President,
I would like to congratulate the French Council Presidency on initiating today's meeting. I would also like to thank the Secretary General and Ambassador Greenstock for their reports. The issue we are dealing with today is a top international priority, since the Sword of Damocles of international terrorism is hanging over all of us. Terrorism kills innocent people and is a crime. It threatens peace and security, it threatens democracy, development and freedom, it scorns national and international law and brutally attacks human rights. This is the message the horrific terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 sent to us all. What is more, the attacks on Djerba and Bali, and in Moscow and Mombasa, have made it clear to us that this threat remains unchanged.

No country is willing to live with this threat. We must therefore join forces to counter this brutal challenge with determination and prudence. The threat to our citizens has gained a new dimension. It is not possible to negotiate with terrorists such as Osama bin Laden and his network. They must be defeated. The terrorist network must be destroyed. At the same time, however, we must use political, humanitarian and economic means to root out for good the possible causes which lead people to support terrorism.

I would first of all like to briefly outline three fundamental considerations:

Firstly, the international terrorism of someone like Osama bin Laden poses a strategic threat to peace and the international order. This terrorism is aimed at forcing us to react rashly and to entangle us in a war among civilizations. That must not be our response. We must react in a way that weakens terrorism. There are no easy answers to this. The fight against international terrorism must take place at various levels. Intelligence, police, judicial, in extreme cases even military measures are indispensable. However, crisis prevention, conflict management, participation, poverty reduction, the promotion of education and a dialogue among civilizations are equally important. It is crucial to prevent acts of terrorism. But it is even better to prevent people from becoming terrorists.

Secondly, we can only win this fight through intensive international cooperation. Terrorism does not stop at borders. The impressive international coalition against terrorism which evolved following the attacks in New York and Washington must be preserved. Allow me, Mr President, to comment here on the current situation: we are greatly concerned that a military strike against the regime in Baghdad would involve considerable and unpredictable risks for the global fight against terrorism. We have no illusions about the brutal nature of Saddam Hussein's regime. Therefore, we all demand that Baghdad implement the relevant UN Resolutions in full and without any exceptions. However, in addition to disastrous consequences for long-term regional stability, we also fear possible negative repercussions for the joint fight against terrorism. These are fundamental reasons for our rejection of military action. What we need is a system of global cooperative security. Asymmetrical conflicts in particular must be countered with an international system of sanctions and verification mechanisms. And it is the United Nations which provides us with the appropriate global framework for this.

Thirdly, our fight must always be legitimized under international law. It must respect national and international law, human rights and the UN Charter. Human rights in particular should not be suspended under the pretext of combating terrorism. After all, this fight is not only about defending our security, but also about our fundamental values, namely freedom, democracy and human rights.

Mr President,
The United Nations reacted quickly and resolutely to the events of 11 September 2001. Allow me to single out the Security Council's Counter Terrorism Committee here. It has done impressive work and its Chairman deserves our recognition. In this connection, my country is prepared to assist third states in developing suitable measures to combat terrorism and to coordinate this assistance with the Committee.

We also attach great importance to the General Assembly debates and convention projects on this issue. It would be desirable if the General Assembly could finally conclude its work on conventions on the comprehensive fight against terrorism and on nuclear terrorism.

Mr President,
Germany will continue to participate actively and constructively in all efforts to fight and prevent international terrorism. This is one of our most important foreign and security-policy objectives. We are working towards this goal in very close cooperation with our international partners, particularly within the framework of the European Union.

As well as the prosecution of terrorists, we are particularly keen to tackle this danger at its roots. This includes devising possible solutions to simmering regional conflicts, as has been shown by the examples Afghanistan and the Middle East. It also includes the stabilization and development of countries stricken by crisis through useful assistance and cooperation.

Furthermore, we continue to pay particular attention to the risk of terrorists gaining access to weapons of mass destruction. However, this means that the international instruments of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation must not under any circumstances be weakened. Indeed, quite the reverse should be the case: they must be strengthened. Within the EU and G8 frameworks, we have launched various initiatives in this connection.

We also attach particular importance to the dialogue with other civilizations, particularly the Islamic world in this context.

Let me say once more: we cannot achieve these goals without the international coalition against terrorism. We must preserve and cultivate it – and it would be best if we do so within the framework of the United Nations. The momentum which today's meeting has created must be used. During the German Presidency of the Council, we plan to take up this issue once more in an open debate on 20 February.

Thank you.

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