'Seize This Opportunity' Iraq Indicates It Will Comply. (Peacewatch)

Article excerpt

The Security Council unanimously approved a tough new resolution--1441 (2002)--aimed at United Nations weapons inspectors returning to Iraq. Following eight weeks of intensive negotiations, the resolution allowed the 15-member Council to speak with a united voice and send a clear signal to Iraq that it has a "final opportunity" to disarm, and also warned of "serious consequences" if Iraq failed to comply.

Immediately after the vote, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that "how this crisis is resolved will affect greatly the course of peace and security in the region and the world". He urged Iraq to "seize this opportunity" and meet the Council's demands, and appealed to all Governments with influence to remain engaged.

The two original sponsors of the resolution--the United States and the United Kingdom--welcomed its adoption. United States President George Bush said: "Now comes the hard part: the Security Council must maintain its unity and sense of purpose so that the Iraqi regime cannot revert to the strategies of obstruction and deception it used so successfully in the past." Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom warned Iraq that if it defied the United Nations, "we will disarm you by force".

Council President Zhang Yishan of China said that a message of peace, a message of goodwill, a message of hope" had been sent. "Now the ball is in the hands of the Iraqi Government, and we hope that Iraq will comply fully and unconditionally." He stressed that the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as its legitimate concerns, should be respected.

Calling the resolution a "positive and constructive compromise text", Ambassador Martin Belinga-Eboutou of Cameroon said it did not "constitute victory for any particular fight, but rather for international peace and security".

In a 13 November letter, as the Chronicle was going to press, Iraq indicated its willingness to accept the return of weapons inspectors--a move immediately welcomed by the Council President. Iraqi Ambassador Mohammad Al-Douri said his country was "prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable". He told reporters in New York: "We are eager to see them perform their duties in accordance with international law as soon as possible."

Mr. Zhang Yishan said he had been contacted by Mr. AlDouri with the news of a letter of acceptance from Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, adding that Council members welcomed the "correct" decision by the Iraqi Government and that they would like to see that resolution 1441 be implemented "fully and very effectively".

The resolution describes Iraq as remaining in "material breach" of a decade of previous resolutions, in particular through its failure to cooperate with the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It hands the weapons inspection teams a strongly enhanced mandate to re-enter Iraq--after an absence of nearly four years--and gain "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect, as well as immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted, and private access to all officials and other persons whom UNMOVIC or the IAEA wish to interview". Previously, inspectors had to provide notice before inspections and to work under diplomatic escort; now they will be required to go back to the Security Council to report on any failure by Iraq to fulfill its obligations.

The Council deplored the fact that Iraq had not provided an accurate and complete disclosure, either of all aspects of its programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres, or of all its holdings of such weapons. …