Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Crunch Time for the UN

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Crunch Time for the UN

Article excerpt

PARTLY AT the prompting of Mr Tony Blair, President Bush is now rightly seeking to build an international coalition at the United Nations against Iraq. In so doing, he raises the stakes for the 57-year-old organisation. The UN's forerunner, the League of Nations, was destroyed by its impotence when it failed to stand up to Japanese, German and Italian aggression in the 1930's. Were the United Nations to fail in the current crisis, it could prove equally fatal to today's world body. Time and again, Iraq has defied Security Council resolutions. If the Council cannot effectively enforce its decisions, the outlook for a new world order based on the rule of law will be bleak indeed.

Twelve years ago the Security Council rose to the challenge of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Resolution 678 set a deadline for Iraqi withdrawal, and authorised members states to "use all necessary means" to eject the Iraqis should they not meet the deadline. This created the legal framework for the Gulf War. A similar resolution is now needed for the readmission of arms inspectors. If Iraq obeys in full, then the UN would be right to decline to authorise military action against Baghdad. But for the demand to have any chance of being obeyed by Saddam Hussein, the threat of UN-authorised military action must be credible. It is in the interests of all of us that the United Nations is central, both to the effort to end the current crisis peacefully and to any decision to use force if Iraq continues to be obdurate.

Killer bugs

THE HEALTH Secretary Alan Milburn certainly chooses his moment. With Tony Blair threatening war against Iraq because of the danger of Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, the Department of Health has proposed to break up the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), the National Radiological Protection Board, the Porton Down biological research centre and the National Focus for Chemical Incidents, and merge them all together into a new centralised agency. It has already given the PHLS (which monitors infectious diseases in order to limit their spread) six months to transfer its staff and premises to the NHS. …

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