The United Nations Security Council has voted to immediately close down its inspection bodies that played a pivotal role in monitoring Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programmes under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
In what the US and Iraq hailed as a “historic day”, the resolution terminating the mandate of the UN bodies responsible for overseeing the dismantling of Saddam’s programmes to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles was approved by a vote of 14-0, with Russia abstaining.
“This is an historic day,” said US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. “It turns a new page, opens a new chapter with regard to Iraq and WMD.”
But Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin objected to the council’s failure to comply with previous resolutions demanding that the inspectors certify that Iraq has no banned weapons or missiles before terminating their mandate.
“The adoption of this resolution does not give any clear answers to the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” Churkin said.
Since 2005, the US has been trying to get the security council to wrap up the work of the inspectors, who were pulled out of Iraq just before the March 2003 US-led invasion and barred by the US from returning.
After the war, in May 2003, the US and Britain informed the council they were taking over responsibility for Iraq’s disarmament.
Britain’s UN ambassador Sir Emyr Jones Parry said that for some time neither of the two UN inspection bodies “have been in a position to carry out their functions in a way which serves the aim of disarmament and non-proliferation”.
The focus must now be on ensuring that Iraq itself continued to take steps to support international efforts to prevent the spread of WMD, he said.
Khalilzad said the efforts of the US-led multi-national force in Iraq and the US Iraq Survey Group, which investigated Iraq’s weapons programmes from 2003-2005, “have demonstrated that the current government of Iraq does not possess any weapons of mass destruction or delivery systems”.
Iraq’s new leaders have also been lobbying for the council to stop using the country’s oil revenue to pay the salaries of the inspectors – and to have all money remaining in the UN’s oil-for-food account transferred to the government.
The resolution authorises UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to transfer all remaining unallocated funds – about £30 million – in the oil-for-food account to Iraq’s Development Fund.
Iraq’s UN ambassador Hamid Al-Bayati said the adoption of the resolution turned the page on “an appalling chapter in Iraq’s modern history, which had a destructive impact on the people of Iraq”.
He said the Iraqi government viewed the resolution as a reaffirmation that all trade, financial and economic sanctions imposed under previous UN resolutions “shall no longer apply”.
The resolution will “terminate immediately” the mandate of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission known as Unmovic, which was charged with certifying that Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons programmes and long-range missiles were dismantled.
It would also end the mandate of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office, which was responsible for uncovering and dismantling the country’s nuclear weapons programme.