Security Council Debate on Iraq Setback for U.S.
Powell failed to snatch a war go-ahead from U.N. Security Council
UNITED NATIONS, February 15 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) - The United States suffered Friday, February 15, a setback to its hopes of getting U.N. approval to wage war on Iraq when key nations backed calls for more inspections at a key Security Council meeting.
The Security Council was meeting to hear a new inspection update by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on 11 weeks of work which began on November 27.
After the report, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin stressed there was no need for another resolution on Iraqi disarmament as the French paper can do the job.
The paper recently presented to the Security Council called for beefing up inspectors in Iraq.
The mission of inspectors has not finished yet, and they should be given chances for success, said De Villepin.
'war is always is expression of failure, as there is still an alternative.'
The top diplomat suggested that the council meet again at foreign-minister level on March 14 to assess the situation in Iraq.
Diplomats in the crowded non-members' gallery warmly applauded de Villepin when he said the use of force was not yet justified and inspections were 'the most sure and most rapid' way to disarm Iraq.
A council diplomat said that, apart from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and his Spanish counterpart, Ana Palacio, all ministers accepted de Villepin's March 14 suggestion when they met behind closed doors after the public session.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, for his part, called on the U.N. to continue to back arms inspections in Iraq and give inspectors 'all necessary assistance', as diplomacy has not yet been exhausted.
'We have a unique opportunity to solve this most burning world problem politically,' he said.
'Their accounts have shown very clearly that in Iraq a unique potential has been established in this area of inspections and monitoring,' Ivanov said.
Further irking Washington, the top Russian diplomat urged for giving the inspectors in Iraq more time to do what he called smooth inspections process.
He called Iraq's allowing private interviews with its inspectors as a step in the right direction, underling that Iraq's cooperation would maintain its own interests.
As diplomats began clapping him, council president Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister, reminded them that applause was forbidden in council meetings, 'even on Saint Valentine's Day.'
China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan also urged world leaders to do everything possible to avoid war and for Blix's team to be given more time.
Tang said the stability of the Gulf region and the credibility of the U.N. Security Council were at stake in the Iraq crisis.
Pakistan, meanwhile, said it was open to expanding weapons inspections in Iraq and allowing more time for President Saddam Hussein to disarm.
Munir Akram, Pakistan's permanent representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council that reports by U.N. weapons inspectors delivered on Friday showed 'important developments.'
Blix and ElBaradei visited Baghdad last weekend, four days after Powell gave the council satellite photos and taped conversations to back allegations that Iraq had concealed weapons, evaded inspectors and intimidated scientists they wished to interview.
Rebutting one of Powell's charges, Blix said that 'in no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming.'
He also challenged the interpretation of one satellite photo, which Powell said proved that Iraq had removed weapons and sanitized a site before it was inspected.
And, in words which must have encouraged the French, German and Russian foreign ministers in particular, he said 'inspections are effectively helping to bridge the gap in knowledge' between the end of inspections in December 1998 and their resumption on November 27 of last year.
Powell dismissed signs of improved cooperation by the Iraqi authorities as delaying tactics, and said that a decision would be made on whether to go to war within weeks.
But Powell did not rule out the French proposal. 'Let us all go back to capitals, reflect on it,' he told reporters.
After hearing the inspectorsí report, Powell told the council in a highly charged public session that 'in the very near future' it would have to ask itself whether 'it is time to consider serious consequences of the kind intended by (Resolution) 1441.'
The resolution, adopted November 8, gave Iraq a 'final opportunity' to disarm peacefully, under the threat of military action if it lied or failed to cooperate with inspectors.
Powell noted that the inspectors are due to report again to the council on March 1.
Dismissing steps taken lately by Iraq as 'tricks' designed to fool the world community into believing that it was complying, Powell urged the council not to walk away from Iraq's 'continued non-compliance and failure to cooperate.'
'That is all process, it is not substance,' he said. 'These are all tricks that are being played on us.'
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Iraq had 'humiliated' the United Nations in the 12 years since the 1991 Gulf War, and that only a 'dramatic and immediate change' by Saddam could prevent war.