World Reaction to Powell U.N. Presentation Mixed; Much Supportive
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2003 Representatives of three countries made statements of strong support for the U.S. position on Iraq following Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council Feb. 5. A few appeared strongly against war, and others appear to be fence-sitting.
Great Britain, Spain and Bulgaria showed strong support immediately after Powell spoke. Representatives of Security Council member nations were given the opportunity to make short statements during the meeting.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw called Powell's presentation "a most powerful and authoritative case." Britain has been America's staunchest ally regarding Iraq.
"The international community owes (Powell) its thanks for laying bare the deceit practiced by the regime of Saddam Hussein and, worse, the very great danger which that regime represents," Straw said.
The representatives of Spain and Bulgaria voiced similar sentiments.
Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio echoed statements made by American leaders on many occasions, that inspections are not an end unto themselves, but rather a means to judge Iraqi cooperation. "The inspections can only bear fruit if Iraq cooperates actively, and to date, it has not done so," she said.
Palacio told the council its credibility before the international community is at stake.
The representative from Bulgaria said his country will "face its high responsibilities" to disarm Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Iraqi people. "The Iraqi people deserve a better destiny and a peaceful future," Minister for Foreign Affairs Solomon Pasi said. "And Bulgaria is ready to contribute towards achieving this goal."
France, Germany and Mexico urged the council members to depend on the work of the inspectors. France, in particular, seemed determined to avoid war regardless of what the inspectors next report when they address the Security Council Feb. 14 and regardless of how long such inspections could go on without reaching a conclusion.
"Let us double, let us triple the number of inspectors. Let us open up more regional offices. Let us go further than this," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said. "Could we not, for example, set up a specialized body to keep under surveillance the sites and areas that have already been inspected? Let us very significantly reinforce the capacity for monitoring (and) collecting information in Iraq."
Iraq's U.N. representative, Mohammed al-Douri, not unexpectedly, dismissed Powell's presentation as "utterly unrelated to the truth." He suggested Powell's tapes of conversations were fabrications and that Iraq's 12,000-page declaration of its weapons and weapons programs is "accurate, comprehensive and updated."
In a Jan. 27 report to the Security Council, chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix called the Iraqi declaration "rich in volume, but poor in information, and practically devoid of new evidence."
China and Russia are examples of countries that expressed noticeably mixed messages. The Chinese representative welcomed "the U.S. move to provide the United Nations with this information and evidence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." But he also said the Security Council should decide the next step, an indication China doesn't want the United States going it alone in any military move.
"As long as there is still the slightest hope for political settlement, we should exert our utmost effort to achieve that," Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Tang Jiaxuan said.
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov also urged countries to work through the United Nations. "The inspectors alone can recommend to the Security Council how much time they need to carry out the tasks entrusted to them," he said. But at the same time, he said Iraq must answer legitimate questions Powell raised.
U.S. leaders have repeatedly said the United States will not wait for the Security Council to reach a unanimous resolution to use force if President Bush feels there is no other choice. The United Kingdom especially has backed up this position.
"Saddam is defying every one of us, every nation here represented," Straw said at the Security Council meeting. "He questions our resolve and is gambling that we will lose our nerve rather than enforce our will."
In a statement to reporters, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan withheld judgment on Powell's presentation. He said he'd let the inspectors follow through on the information and report back.
At the same time, however, Annan also urged Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government to more fully cooperate when the lead inspectors return to Baghdad Feb. 8, "for the sake of their own people, for the region, and for the sake of world order."