Iraq complains of war 'pretexts' in UN resolution

In a long, stern letter to the United Nations, Iraq’s foreign minister complains that the new Security Council resolution on weapons inspections provides a pretext for the United States to wage war against his country.

In a long, stern letter to the United Nations, Iraq’s foreign minister complains that the new Security Council resolution on weapons inspections provides a pretext for the United States to wage war against his country.

“There is premeditation to target Iraq, whatever the pretext,” Foreign Minister Naji Sabri wrote to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a letter dated Saturday and released Sunday.

The Iraqi complaints are not expected to interfere with the scheduled resumption of UN weapons inspections on Wednesday.

The letter had been expected, promised by the Iraqi official when he wrote to Annan on November 11 to accept the council’s Resolution 1441, which sent the inspectors back to Iraq after a four-year absence. He said then he would follow with a second letter commenting on supposed violations of international law and other problems with the resolution.

The resolution, adopted unanimously November 7, demands that the Iraqis give up any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or face “serious consequences.” It requires the Baghdad government to make a declaration by December 8 of any weapons of mass destruction, facilities to manufacture them, and “all other chemical, biological, and nuclear programmes,” even those not related to military uses.

Any Iraqi failure to cooperate with the inspectors is to be reported to the council for possible punitive action. The Bush administration has threatened war to enforce Iraqi disarmament, with or without UN approval. But other governments, including France, Russia and China, say that decision can be made only by the Security Council.

The Iraqis have agreed to meet the December 8 deadline. But top UN inspectors who visited Baghdad last week said the Iraqis expressed concern about the short time allotted to make what is envisioned as a comprehensive report.

Paragraph four of the resolution says that “false statements or omissions” in Iraq’s declaration of its weapons or weapons programmes – and chemical, biological and nuclear programmes it claims are peaceful – could contribute to a finding that it had committed a “material breach” of the resolution, a finding that might lead to military action.

The foreign minister’s letter, which analyses the 2,200-word resolution paragraph by paragraph, complains that this key paragraph is unjust and unprecedented, “because it considers the giving of inaccurate statements - taking into consideration that there are thousands of pages to be presented in those statements – is a material breach.”

Sabri wrote that the aim was clear: “to provide pretexts ... to be used in aggressive acts against Iraq.”

Sabri urged members of the Security Council to ensure that the weapons inspectors are committed “to their obligations according to the UN charter and ... the United Nations’ goals.” If they do so, he wrote, they will “uncover the false US accusations.”

From 1991 to 1998, UN expert teams destroyed large amounts of chemical and biological weapons and longer-range missiles forbidden to Iraq by UN resolutions after the Gulf War. They also dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme before it could build a bomb. The inspections were suspended amid disputes over UN access to Iraqi sites and Iraqi complaints of American spying via the UN operation.

Under the new inspection regime, the first working group of 18 inspectors arrives Monday on a flight from a UN rear base in Cyprus, and their first inspection is expected early Wednesday.

The working group joins almost 40 support staff who have come to Baghdad in the past week to re-establish UN monitoring after a four-year absence. The number of inspectors in Iraq at any one time is expected to rise to 80 to 100 by year-end.

Sunday, UN computer, telephone and other technicians were laying the groundwork for what is expected to be months of field missions. Secrecy was a top priority.

UNMOVIC, which is responsible for checking for any chemical or biological weapons, and the nuclear inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency were headquartered at a former hotel on the outskirts of Baghdad. A “hot line” link was planned between the centre and an Iraqi government liaison agency.

The special link is designed “to make our communications smooth,” said Ueki. “In case something happens” – that is, trouble during an inspection mission - “we can communicate with each other.”

From 1991 to 1998, UN expert teams destroyed large amounts of chemical and biological weapons and longer-range missiles forbidden to Iraq by UN resolutions after the Gulf War. They also dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme before it could build a bomb. The inspections were suspended amid disputes over UN access to Iraqi sites and Iraqi complaints of American spying via the UN operation.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox