Security Council hears call for more time for Iraq weapons inspections

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As members of the United Nations Security Council continued private talks on the way forward in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, the 15-nation body concluded its open debate among non-members today.Speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU) and 13 other countries, Ambassador Adamantios Th. Vassilakis of Greece, which currently holds the EU Presidency, urged that more time be given to UN weapons inspectors, although he warned that the process could not go on indefinitely.The EU’s objective remained the full and effective disarmament of Iraq and it wanted to achieve that disarmament peacefully, Ambassador Vassilakis said. That was what the people of Europe wanted, as well. War was not inevitable. Force should be used only as a last resort.Ambassador Vassilakis reiterated the EU’s full support for the ongoing work of the inspectors. They must be given the time and resources that the Council believed they needed, he said. But inspections were not an endless process and could not continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi cooperation.For his part, Ambassador Isaac C. Lamba of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the peaceful disarmament of Iraq, in line with resolution 1441, was possible with a little measure of extended patience and perseverance spent on the search for peace through the United Nations.He said in the present situation, the heavy consequences of war in Iraq would be felt very acutely, even in Africa. The overspill of the war would conceivably create a regional conflagration as the conflict transcended the borders of Iraq. The economic consequences of the war would also impact negatively on poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Africa would witness almost total collapse of its nascent industrial base and economic development for lack of capacity to accommodate the pressures resulting from war.The African position, Ambassador Lamba said, did not endorse war at the present stage. The inspections required more time than the unrealized deadline of 17 March as suggested in the draft resolution on which the Council would vote. The inspections could not continue ad infinitum but a realistic timeframe would enhance the credibility of the Council’s intentions. Any war against Iraq would have to be sanctioned by a resolution from the Council.The United States, United Kingdom and Spain have introduced a draft resolution that presents Iraq with a 17 March deadline to cooperate fully with disarmament demands, which France says it will veto. France, Germany, the Russian Federation and other Council members have voiced opposition to action at this time and seek continued and enhanced weapons inspections.Throughout the second day of debate, several of the 25 countries that took the floor spoke in favour of continued inspections while others said it was clear that Iraq had not cooperated fully, but nearly all appealed for Security Council unity. The session was held at the request of the Non-Aligned Movement in order to give the wider UN membership an opportunity to express their views to the Council.

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