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World Against War

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World against war

by Reinout van Wagtendonk, 17 October 2002

At a rare open meeting of the United Nations Security Council, dozens of nations have spoken out about possible US military action against Iraq. Despite Wednesday's meeting, requested by countries attempting to find a peaceful solution to the threatened conflict, there is no indication Washington will budge from its hard-line on Saddam Hussein's regime.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer denies that the permanent Security Council members are deadlocked on Iraq.

"I would not characterise it as deadlocked. No breakthroughs have taken place to date, but the conversations continue."

Those conversations are mainly between the five members with veto power: the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China. That bothers the ten non-permanent members of the Security Council. It also bothers many other United Nations members. South Africa chairs the Non-aligned Movement of about 130 countries advocating a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis. The open Security Council debate on Iraq was requested by the non-aligned countries in an effort to be heard. Dumisani Kumalo is South Africa's ambassador to the United Nations:

"We are deeply concerned that the non-permanent Security Council members, who are elected by you and through you by the General Assembly, are being isolated from the deliberations on this crucial issue."

South Africa wants the weapons inspectors to return to Iraq as soon as possible. That was generally the sentiment in the dozens of speeches before the Security Council. In this open forum, the American threat of war received at most faintly implied support, if any at all. But as long as there is no new Security Council resolution, the UN weapons inspection agency which hasn't operated in Iraq since 1998 will not resume its work there. Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix:

"Well, we have waited now for nearly four years, so we'll have a little patience with the Security Council. Ha ha. What I hear from the members of the Security Council is that they themselves are anxious to get to such a resolution."

But it is not at all clear that agreement is possible. The US and the UK keep insisting on a single resolution which immediately authorizes the use of military force in case Iraq does not unconditionally comply with sharply drawn inspection, disarmament and human rights demands. France, Russia and China resist this immediate threat of war. France is seeking support for a two-step approach; a first resolution containing the tough demands, followed, if necessary, by a second resolution authorizing force when Iraq is found in violation. Russia has signalled that it would consider agreeing to this French proposal.

US still firm

But simultaneously with the Security Council debate, President Bush re-emphasized America's resolve. In a White House ceremony meant to amplify his hard-line stance against Iraq, Mr Bush signed last week's Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war. The President said that his signature does not mean that he has ordered the use of force, but he warned that he will not back down.

"The US takes the resolutions of the Security Council seriously. We urge other nations to do the same. We're working to build the broadest possible coalition to enforce the demands of the world on the Iraqi regime. I've told all the members of the United Nations, America will play its historic role in defeating aggressive tyranny."

But judging by many speakers during the open Security Council debate on Iraq, the world does not seem ready to follow President Bush in this.

Disclaimer: Radio Netherlands is not responsible for the content of external Web sites

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