President Bush Challenges U.N. to Act on Iraq
Bush told the assembly, ”The Security Council resolutions will be enforced, the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable.”
“And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.”
Mr. Bush said the Iraqi leader has engaged in a “decade of defiance” of UN Security Council resolutions since the start of the 1991 Gulf War and that his government’s oppression of its people is “all-pervasive.”
“He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations and for all his pledges,” Mr. Bush said. “By breaking every pledge, by his deceptions and by his cruelties, Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.”
The president went on to urge the world body to act quickly on a new resolution that would force Iraq to disarm, warning the UN that it may lose its own legitimacy if it does not act. UN weapons inspectors have not had access to the country since 1998, causing concern that Iraq could be developing weapons of mass destruction.
“All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?” Bush asked the assembly.
After the address, several European leaders welcomed Mr. Bush’s call for Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions, but Iraq’s ambassador to the UN lashed out saying the speech lacked credibility and was motivated by political revenge.
“He chooses to deceive the world and his own people by the longest series of fabrications that have ever been told by a leader of a nation,” Ambassador Mohamed al-Douri said according to media reports.
Britain’s Foreign Minister Jack Straw called Mr. Bush’s words “tough and effective,” promising that the “United Kingdom will work closely with the United States and its international partners in the Security Council,” to develop future resolutions aimed at Baghdad.
Other European leaders welcomed the president’s plan to work with the UN but avoided commenting on the potential for unilateral U.S. action.
Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said she agreed with Mr. Bush that Iraq must comply with Security Council resolutions immediately and without extraneous conditions. When asked if she expected the U.S. to go to war with Iraq, she echoed a widespread sentiment: “What is important is to wait [to see] if Iraq gives in to the demand to allow weapons inspectors to resume their work.”
Before the president’s remarks, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the assembly that conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia need to be addressed, but urged the U.S. not to act alone, calling on the president directly to “make use of multilateral institutions.”
“Even the most powerful countries know that they need to work with others in multilateral institutions to achieve their aims,” Annan said. “Only by multilateral action can we ensure that open markets offer benefits and opportunities to all.”
Annan went on to urge Iraq to comply with UN resolutions regarding weapons inspections saying, “If Iraq’s defiance continues, the council must face its responsibilities.”
The secretary-general laid out four current threats to world peace, pointing first to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, followed by Iraq, Afghanistan and the conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir.
President Bush briefly addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his remarks, saying America stands committed to “an independent and democratic Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security.”