Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The World From,.The United Nations Many Delegates Are Proud of UN's Role in the Gulf Conflict, Yet Others Feel War Could Have Been Avoided

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The World From,.The United Nations Many Delegates Are Proud of UN's Role in the Gulf Conflict, Yet Others Feel War Could Have Been Avoided

Article excerpt

THE blue police barricades stacked two and three deep across from the United Nations, ready for use in the frequent antiwar protests, are gone now. The number of UN visitors, sharply down last year, is picking up again. The Security Council still meets often, but rarely until 3 a.m. or through the weekend. Arabs from opposing sides of the Gulf war now chat freely in the delegates' lounge.

In short, the United Nations is a decidedly more relaxed place these days. The easing of tensions is almost palpable.

Yet sentiments are mixed. Many delegates are pleased and proud the UN played a key role in the Gulf conflict and that the coalition held. "I think there's more of a feeling now that perhaps the UN can actually do something," says a Costa Rican diplomat. A Washington Post-ABC News survey after the war found 70 percent of those questioned said they had gained respect for the UN.

Some delegates, however, still insist the war need never have happened. They say the north-south economic issues at the root of the conflict need urgent attention. Abdalla Saleh al-Ashtal, Yemen's ambassador to the UN, who failed during the conflict to get the Security Council to halt the bombing and ease the trade embargo, notes that six of the world's richest and poorest nations are Arab. A new report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development confirms that the world's poorest nations took the hardest blows economically during the conflict in reduced tourist and export revenue and the return of Gulf workers.

Whatever their views on the UN's role, most delegates interviewed agree that the effects of the war will be long lasting. Just a few days ago UN Undersecretary-General Martti Ahtisaari, head of a UN assessment team just back from Iraq, reported "near apocalyptic" damage. Except for roads, he said, the entire economic infrastructure has been destroyed. …

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