U.N. Members Offer Mixed Response to Powell Report
Of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China, France, and Russia emphasized that inspections must continue, while Britain was more supportive of a possible military response. Passing a new resolution authorizing the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein would require nine votes from the Security Council, including support from the five permanent members.
Powell used spy photos, tapes of alleged intercepted conversations and other evidence as proof that Iraq has not given up its chemical and biological weapons. He said Iraq is trying to acquire nuclear weapons and that it has ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan was the first to respond to Powell’s speech. He argued that the work of the weapons inspectors in Iraq should continue as long as there is “the slightest hope for political settlement.”
Tang also urged Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to fully cooperate with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and chief nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei. Both men are expected to travel to Baghdad at the end of the week.
“We hope that the upcoming trip to Iraq by Chairman Blix and Director General ElBaradei on the eighth [of February] would yield positive results. The two agencies pointed out not long ago some problems in the inspections. We urge Iraq to adopt a more proactive approach, make further explanations and clarification as soon as possible, and cooperate with the inspection process,” Tang continued.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov asked that Powell’s evidence be turned over the U.N. inspectors and recommended a continuation of inspections.
“The information provided today by [the] U.S. secretary of state once again convincingly indicates the fact that the activities of the international inspectors in Iraq must be continued. They alone can provide an answer to the question to what extent is Iraq complying with the demands of the Security Council. They alone can help the Security Council work out and adopt carefully balanced, best possible decisions,” Ivanov said.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin suggested tripling the number of inspectors and placing a full-time monitor in Baghdad to oversee the process.
“The use of force can only be a final recourse,” de Villepin said. “We must move on to a new stage and further strengthen the inspections.”
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer emphasized that inspections ought to continue and echoed Russia’s request that the information Powell presented be given to U.N. inspectors. He also voiced support for diplomatic efforts designed to encourage Iraq to fully comply with U.N. resolutions.
“We need a tough regime of intensive inspections that can guarantee the full and lasting disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. By tightening inspections, we are creating an opportunity for a peaceful solution,” Fischer said.
“Moreover, we ought to support all endeavors of states in the region that are currently engaging in considerable diplomatic efforts to bring the Iraqi government to fully implement the resolutions,” Fischer continued.
Both Britain and Spain expressed a greater willingness to take military action against Iraq. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Powell made a “most powerful” case. Saddam Hussein is “gambling that we will lose our nerve rather than enforce our will,” Straw said.
Stressing that the U.N. must be willing to back up its resolutions with military action if necessary, Straw said that the U.N.’s early 20th century precursor, the League of Nations, “failed because it could not create actions from its words; it could not back diplomacy with a credible threat, and where necessary, the use of force.”
Reiterating U.S. President Bush’s assertion that U.N. inspectors were not sent “to conduct a scavenger hunt” in Iraq, Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said that “inspectors are not detectives, they are to witness the voluntary disarmament of Iraq.”
Palacio demanded that Iraq fully comply with disarmament and said that “what is at stake… is the credibility of the Security Council before the international community, which has become the most valuable instrument for the maintenance of peace, and the key of our system of collective security.”
Syrian Ambassador to U.N. Mikhail Wehbe told the Security Council that Iraq was ready to make extra efforts to enhance its cooperation with the inspectors. Wehbe also stressed that Iraq’s neighbors do not support a U.S.-led military action.
“Syria points to the Iraqi commitment to continue to cooperate actively with the inspectors and to present all what is required under [Resolution] 1441. In parallel, the Security Council must undertake the measures necessary to lift the sanctions imposed on the Iraqi people under Article 22 of 687, as well as activate Article 14 of the resolution which is calling for the declaration of the Middle East region as a zone free from all weapons of mass destruction — nuclear, bacteriological and chemical — with no exceptions of any state, including Israel, which solely requires all of these lethal weapons. “
Following remarks from the Security Council members, Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri dismissed Powell’s report as being “utterly unrelated to the truth.”