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Jeremy Greenstock: A New U.N. Resolution

February 24, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: And now to Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock. He’s the one who introduced the new resolution this afternoon that was co-sponsored with Britain by the United States and Spain.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome.


JIM LEHRER: If this resolution is in fact passed by the U. N. Security Council, does it clear the way for military action?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: It’s not legally necessary. Resolution 1441 of last November already established that there would be serious consequences if Iraq did not fully cooperate. The inspectors have made it quite clear that although there has been some cooperation on process, on access, there has not been the full-hearted cooperation, which would make their job a cooperative and friendly one with a state that wanted to disarm. That’s what the U.N. is looking for, and it has not happened. So this resolution will say that to indicate that the Council is clear that there is something drastically wrong with Iraqi cooperation. And then the serious consequences under 1441 will apply.

JIM LEHRER: Why was the second resolution necessary?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: In order to give the Security Council a chance to be clear, and consensual about the nonperformance of Iraq against their standard. If we just turned our backs on the Security Council at this stage and did not ask them to be clear in their decision on this, then it would look as though we had just put 1441 in our pockets and were moving on in our own way. And that’s not what Pres. Bush wanted, as I understand it, on the 12th of September. It’s not what my Prime Minister Tony Blair wants. He wants the Security Council to remain the framework for the complete disarmament of Iraq by whatever method is necessary to achieve that. That’s the reason for putting down this new resolution.

JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador, as I’m sure you know, the conventional analytical wisdom goes one step further in this, it is that the United States needs Britain to proceed for military action and in order for Britain to proceed, Tony Blair needs a new resolution because of the strong anti-war sentiment in Britain. Does that make sense to you?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: He has made it clear that a new resolution is a high political priority for him. And I can see that from my point of view why the United Kingdom would want that. Pres. Bush has been very supportive of that position. And that’s where we are. If the Security Council can do this, then we have international backing for a difficult operation, a difficult post conflict reconstruction effort. And everybody will see this thing through much more effectively if they stick together on that. The question is, have members of the Security Council the toughness to go this extra step, to face up to Iraq’s defiance, and deal with it even though they have rejected the peaceful route. That’s the question.

JIM LEHRER: Now, when do you expect to vote, within two weeks, is that right, you’re going to press for a vote within two weeks?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: We haven’t set a deadline because we didn’t want to play the ultimatum game. But the speculation that this is a small number of weeks and not a large number of months is I think correct, and we can look at the second week of March as the period when I think this will come to a climax. That’s my observation.

JIM LEHRER: Now, this would be after the next report from Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, correct?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Yes. There will need to be a further written report on the first of March about the questions that are unresolved by Iraq. And then there will be at the end of the first week of March, not yet scheduled by Guinea, the presidency for next month, an oral report by Doctors Blix and ElBaradei, which will be essential in our view before a vote.

JIM LEHRER: Then this resolution — would it be a fair statement, sir, to say that your resolution today expects these next reports from the inspectors to be negative in terms of the cooperation of Iraq, correct?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Yes, but then there are subjective views about what cooperation means, and we’ve got to debate that. 1441 makes it quite clear that half cooperation, partial results, reluctant involvement with the inspectors, is just not what we’re talking about. Iraq has hidden weapons of mass destruction; it is keeping the inspectors away from the real places that need to be inspected. They’re not detectives. They are the effective and verifying instrument for cooperation with the country that’s disarming. That’s not happening, that’s the question we’re asking.

JIM LEHRER: But it’s a fair point, though, is it not, Mr. Ambassador, that this — passing this resolution is dependent on a negative report from the inspectors, otherwise you’ve got a problem, correct?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, it’s dependent on a number of countries voting for it. And they can judge what they hear from the inspectors. You’re right; most people would like to hear through the objective voice of the inspectors that not enough is being done. But there’s something in the eye of the beholder on all of this, as we’ve seen all along; that some people will pick some things out of the inspectors report, other people will pick other things. What we want now is a clear decision against the criteria that we unanimously set in 1441, and that I think will be unequivocal.

JIM LEHRER: All right. Let’s go through the three possibilities, as I see it at least, the three possible decisions. The resolution passes by a majority vote, that’s nine votes, and then everything proceeds as you discussed, the next step, serious consequences, correct?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Yes; at the minimum. We would like more votes than just the minimum.

JIM LEHRER: But how many ever votes you have, if it’s a majority. Let’s say there’s a majority vote but then it’s vetoed by one of the five permanent members; three of them, China, France and Russia, have already indicated opposition. If it’s vetoed, then what happens?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: In Security Council terms, the resolution is not adopted.

JIM LEHRER: Now in terms of Britain and the United States, in terms of military action, what would a veto mean?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, decisions then have to be taken by my government and by the United States Government. But under the strict terms of 1441, a new resolution is not required. We are offering the opportunity to the Security Council to get behind this and take the tough decision with us, if Iraq’s attitude doesn’t change in the meantime, which is something we dearly hope for. So a vetoed resolution removes the opportunity for the Security Council to remain in control of this.

JIM LEHRER: And of course, a minority vote, in other words a turndown of the resolution by a majority vote would do the same?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: You mean our failure to get nine votes.

JIM LEHRER: Yes failure to get nine votes.

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Yes. Those are two different ways of a resolution not being adopted and therefore two different ways of the Security Council not facing up to the glaring truth on the ground.

JIM LEHRER: But neither the United States nor Britain is saying today that they are going to be bound by the outcome or the vote, either one of these three except the first one, of the three alternatives, correct?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: They — both capitals will have to make absolutely clear on the day that they see the results of this where they want to go next and to make the explanation for that. I’m not going to make it in advance.

JIM LEHRER: Sure. France and Germany, have you seen the French and German memorandum or proposal that went out today as an alternative to your resolution?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: We’ve seen these propositions for sometime now; they’ve been refined and re-presented. We only see it as an alternative and a very welcome alternative, if there is a complete change of attitude by Iraq, and it starts yielding up to the inspectors the materials that we know that they’ve hidden and distributed around the country away from the inspectors’ eyes. Only then do we believe that the French German Russian proposals have any hope of being interesting in terms of complete disarmament. Without that full cooperation, they are, I’m afraid, a distraction.

JIM LEHRER: You could not conceive Britain ever supporting such a thing — without — well, you preface it by saying if something drastic happened in the change of attitude of Iraq, they could, correct, you could?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Yeah, without that miracle we don’t see ourselves going down the long Resolution 1284 route, which gets us back into all sorts of weasel behavior by the Iraqis. That’s not the way to go at this juncture.

JIM LEHRER: But the French, German, Russian proposal calls for beefing up the inspectors, having the inspectors list a specific — specific programs they want Iraq — things they want Iraq to do, and then set a four-month deadline for it to be completed with reports every three weeks. Why is that a bad idea?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: It’s not a bad idea if the one premise is fulfilled that will make the inspectors an effective instrument. The inspectors are not detectives, they can’t go out and catch the criminals who are hiding these things, they are not a police force. They’re there as an instrument to complete and verify what Iraq is offering up freely by way of a stripping of their WMD programs. Double them, trouble them, multiply their numbers by ten times, Saddam still knows how to deal with them if he’s hiding, deceiving and prevaricating. That’s the point we’re making.

JIM LEHRER: As a practical matter, Mr. Ambassador, are you now confronted with a situation where you have two competing approaches, and that’s what it’s really going to come down to, these Security Council members who are not committed on either side are now going to have to choose between the U.S., British, Spanish approach and the German, French, Russian approach?

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, let’s see how this goes. We had that in ’99 over Resolution 1284, which is now the Holy Grail for France and Russia even though they didn’t vote for it at the time. This happened with two competing texts or papers over 1441. We got a unanimous resolution. When it comes to the point, people start taking difficult decisions against the realities; let’s give debate a chance against the realities of American determination, with some help from the U.K., to see this through. And let’s judge this when we know how it turns out.

JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Thank you very much.