Britain’s U.N. Ambassador
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MARGARET WARNER: It was a day of heavy diplomacy at the U.N. on the heels of President Bush’s speech. Secretary of State Powell was engaged in talks with his counterparts from the other Security Council member states. Britain is also taking a leading role in trying to build a consensus for a resolution on the Iraq matter.
For more on the state of the negotiations over a potential resolution, we go to the British Ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.
Welcome, Mr. Ambassador. The president said today he wants to see the Security Council act within days or weeks. Is that doable?
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: The Security Council will certainly act within days or weeks. The business has begun between ministers at the General Assembly now. They’ve been talking about the concepts of what we were doing. I think they will give instructions to their representatives in New York to act before the end of September on this: Maybe quite soon. And we will make steady progress from there.
MARGARET WARNER: Give us an idea of the shape of a resolution. What are you aiming at here?
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Well, we haven’t designed a particular shape at this stage, and, naturally enough, different members of the Security Council have different views. But one thing I think we are agreed on and that is that Iraq has been in defiance of almost all the resolutions from the Security Council on the question of disarmament.
There is another general area of agreement, which is coming through, and that is that the return of inspectors to Iraq is an indispensable tool for making sure that disarmament is going to be complete. It’s a tool. It isn’t the objective or the end, but nobody can see any other way of checking that Iraq is no longer telling lies on this subject. So those two elements are bound to be the foundation of the next Security Council resolution. The details of that, how we express ourselves, the timelines, need further discussion.
MARGARET WARNER: As you know, the president, President Bush has said he believes any resolution has to include an ultimatum. In other words, it has to be more than just an exhortation to Saddam Hussein to re-admit inspectors. From the soundings you’ve taken in the last 24 hours, do you sense agreement on that point, or is that one of the big sticking points?
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: No, I think there is agreement. Remember that the context has changed now that President Bush has made himself publicly clear to the United Nations of where the United States lies. The U.S. is determined to see the completion of disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. And Iraq now has a chance through the United Nations, President Bush has made clear, to do that on a collective international basis. That chance is going to be taken up by the Security Council.
We need to have a response from Iraq, and everybody in the Security Council is clear that that is now the way forward. So the context has changed with the clear determination internationally of the United States to see this finished. I think that makes this episode different from the previous ones.
MARGARET WARNER: So, in other words, are you saying the context has changed because the president has made it clear even if the U.N. doesn’t authorize force, he is essentially determined to have the United States enforce it? Is that what you are saying?
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: That has been clear for some time, if we believe what the U.S. administration has been saying for some months, and my government has been in close consultation with the United States on this point. But the president has decided that he will make the final judgment on that when he has seen whether the United Nations can be effective. And the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also made it clear that although he wants the approach to be collective and multilateral, the U.N. nevertheless has to face up to its responsibilities. So that is the period that we’re entering now, and it’s dependent upon a proper response by Iraq to the requirements of the resolutions. That is the test now.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think, though, that the other members of the Security Council are willing to at least entertain a resolution that would explicitly essentially authorize the use of force if Saddam Hussein didn’t comply. I’m thinking of the model from 1991 when, as I’m sure you remember, actually the resolution was passed in ‘90 – it set January 15 as a deadline for Saddam to comply. And it said there if he doesn’t comply, all member states are authorized to take whatever action they need – something like that — to enforce these resolutions. So essentially there was an explicit okay for the use of force built into the ultimatum. And that’s what I’m wondering is: Do you think that you could get the Security Council to do something that sweeping?
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: We may not need it in the first stage of the Security Council’s action. In 1991, everybody in the U.N. system knew that it was a clear-cut case, the invasion by one country of its neighbor in completely unacceptable circumstances. Many people now have reservations within the U.N. system that the use of force is right until Iraq has been given every chance to obey the Security Council resolutions. Some think that that point should come earlier than others. So there will be a discussion about that, but the next stage doesn’t necessarily have to face up to anything explicit about the use of force.
The clear appreciation of all members of the United Nations is that Iraq is already in defiance of resolutions. It now understands the United States is not going to be patient much longer if that remains the case, so the context has changed, and the United Nations will take a decision on how to apply pressure on Iraq through a new resolution to make sure that disarmament is complete and verified through inspections and we’ll see what happens at that point.
MARGARET WARNER: It sound as if you are saying — but correct me if I’m wrong — that Britain also might ascribe to the proposal that the French president made about a week ago, which was a two-stage process, which I think the Bush administration would rather not have. At least that’s what they seem to be saying. But that it might go in two stages, first the demand, and then if he doesn’t comply the U.N. would revisit it. Is that what you are saying?
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: No, I’m saying what the U.K. policy is — not what the French policy is. The French clearly do not want it all to go into the first resolution. What I’m say is that it may not be necessary to put anything more in a resolution other than that the Security Council will not countenance the failure of Iraq this time to respond to the need for inspectors to go back and to find and destroy all weapons of mass destruction. At that point, we need to see what the reaction of Iraq is and then, every member of the Security Council can make its own decision.
MARGARET WARNER: How do you read the early responses from Russia and China — the other two from five members of the Security Council?
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I think they are very interesting. I think that the five permanent members of the Security Council, with whom we’ve been in the closest consultation, all understand that the complete disarmament of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction is desirable. There is no difference between us on that. And Russia and China have made that abundantly clear.
They now also know that the United States is not going to be patient for very much longer if we just leave this to the sands of time, and that, therefore, they have to calculate how to achieve that peacefully if they don’t want the United States to use military force. And I think they are calculating their position accordingly, and there could be interesting discussions under the weight of that knowledge.
MARGARET WARNER: As we just reported, as I’m sure you know, from Baghdad the Deputy Prime Minister Aziz rejected any kind of unconditional return of the inspectors saying the U.S. would — essentially he was saying used it just as another pretext for aggression as he put it against Iraq. How do you read Baghdad’s reaction?
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Predictable and I think to some extent knee jerk. I think they fail to appreciate that we now have an inspection team under a very able leadership of Dr. Hans Blix, which is going to be entirely independent and professional in its work and respond only to U.N. resolutions and to U.N. rules of inspection; and that that inspection is going to be fair, it’s going to be complete, of course it’s going to be intrusive because no inspection is worth its name unless it is that, but it is not the basis for providing a pretext for the use of force.
This is going to be genuine and Secretary Powell has made it clear that the U.S. interest in proper inspections is genuine. So I think that Iraq needs to recalculate what has been said over the last few days, and see what their options are, because this is their last chance to do this peacefully.
MARGARET WARNER: President Bush said today, of course, that he considered it highly doubtful that Saddam Hussein would comply. Do you share his skepticism?
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: I think everybody agrees with that because they are just not used to responding to the U.N.; they are used to defying the U.N. And they want to see how real this threat is. I think from President Bush’s speech onwards they are now in a position to calculate as they go through this carefully over the next few days that this is real, this is different and that this is necessary in terms of a new choice by Iraq against the circumstances they find themselves in. So let’s wait for a really considered response by Iraq when they understand their options.
MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Greenstock thank you so much.
JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Thank you very much.