Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

United Nations Report: Double Standards Cast Pall over Upcoming U.N. Jubilee

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

United Nations Report: Double Standards Cast Pall over Upcoming U.N. Jubilee

Article excerpt

United Nations Report: Double Standards Cast Pall Over Upcoming U.N. Jubilee

By Ian Williams

Next year is the 50th, Jubilee, anniversary of the United Nations, but the outlook is not for jubilation. For years it has been clear that U.N. resolutions come in various degrees of seriousness, determined not by their content but by the degree to which they harmonize with what the United States and its allies want.

Rejecting a Reasonable Libyan Offer

For example, at the end of November, the Security Council renewed sanctions against Libya over its refusal to hand over to Scottish or American courts two of its citizens accused of causing the explosion of Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. One does not have to be an uncritical fan of the eccentric Libyan leader to think that there is legitimate doubt about the guilt of the accused. Further, there are many international lawyers who think that the demand to hand over the two is both unprecedented and of dubious legality.

Therefore, Libya's offer to hand over the two to be tried by Scottish judges at the World Court in the Hague does not seem unreasonable. The refusal to accept it came immediately after the United Nations had agreed to reduce sanctions against Belgrade, whose government has been complicit in the killing, rape and deportation of so many thousands in Bosnia. Ironically, Libya itself has recently set an exemplary model of international behavior by accepting a World Court judgment and handing over a huge swath of disputed territory to its southern neighbor, Chad. (The U.S. withdrew from the World Court when the judges ruled against it over the mining of harbors in Nicaragua.)

Saddam Makes It Easy to Continue Sanctions on Iraq

The Council also decided to maintain sanctions against Iraq, which of course has a much less exemplary record even than Libya in international affairs. Pressure is building up from Security Council members like Russia and France, who are owed a lot of money by Baghdad, to reconsider the sanctions. Other members remember comments after the Gulf war which make them think that London and Washington have added an unspoken clause to the list of conditions that Iraq must meet--namely, that Saddam Hussain must go.

Of course those seeking to retain sanctions on Iraq are aided in this by the ineptitude of the Iraqi president, whose military maneuvers near the Kuwaiti border almost gave the administration a mid-term election fillip. Saddam's mysterious maneuvers also gave Britain and the U.S. a pretext for spurning Iraq's plea to lift sanctions, even after Baghdad finally conceded on the one point on which it had consistently hedged and fudged--the recognition of Kuwait and even of the U.N.-imposed boundary between the two countries. This belated Iraqi recognition probably was seen as a sign of weakness by British and American U.N. representatives, who fought a rearguard action to minimize its significance in the presidential statement which took note of the change in the Iraqi position, while leaving the U.N. position on sanctions unchanged.

An Utter Abdication of Principles in Bosnia

Such a resolution was, of course, in complete contrast to the U.N.'s utter abdication of principles in the Balkans, where events that took 50 years to unfold in the Middle East have whizzed by in three short years. Just as the U.S. has so often protected Israel at the U.N. no matter what it does, Russia now seems to have adopted the same uncritically supportive view of Serbia. At the beginning of December, the Russians used their veto against a resolution that simply reaffirmed an existing resolution that embargoed shipments of fuel from Serbia through Serb-occupied portions of Bosnia and into the Serb-controlled part of Croatia. In fact the U.N. monitors in the so-called Contact Group had already connived at the delivery of this fuel, in defiance of the resolution.

Lest anyone blame the Russians as uniquely perfidious, on the same day the U. …

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