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Public debate on the situation between Iraq and Kuwait

(New York, October 17, 2002)

Statement by Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso, Permanent Representative of Colombia


My delegation endorses the statement made by Costa Rica on behalf of the Rio Group. We are also grateful also for the statements that have been made here by so many delegations during the past two days where we find a variety of perspectives on this issue that will serve as a frame of reference for further discussions within the Security Council.

In recognizing the importance of this general debate on Iraq, we wish to stress the centrality of this multilateral forum in discussing this situation that has attracted enormous attention on the part of the Security Council over the past twelve years. We also stress the special importance of using multilateral means to respond adequately and legitimately to issues of global concern. We trust that, at the end of our exchange, the actions adopted will confirm the Security Council as the central and indispensable actor in any international decision regarding Iraq.

Colombia is participating in the consideration of this issue, motivated essentially by the need to preserve the role and effectiveness of the United Nations and the multilateral system; by the need to stress the role of the Security Council as the principal guarantor of international peace and security; by the need to have all Member States comply unconditionally with its resolutions, and by the need to reaffirm international law and the general principles that make possible our peaceful coexistence.

We are aware of the general dissatisfaction in the international community regarding the response the Iraqi Government has given in the past to the demands set by the Security Council following the events of 2 August 1990. Up until just a few weeks ago, the attitude of Iraq towards the Secretary-General was intransigent. Its communications with regard to the Council were defiant and its views on the resolutions adopted were a source of considerable surprise. Iraq sowed doubt and mistrust in the international community and thus, in turn, well-founded suspicions were created with regard to the possibility that Iraq was continuing its programmes for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

We value the intention of Iraq to cooperate unconditionally with the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) for the return of weapons inspectors. We recognize the progress made and the practical results achieved in negotiations between the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and the Baghdad Government. But we note, at the same time, that the work of the Security Council and each of its members would have been considerably easier if, from the outset, the Baghdad authorities had cooperated unconditionally in applying the Security Council resolutions in accordance with Article 25 of the Charter.

It was clear to the international community that its unequivocal signals that measures would be taken in the case of Iraq's non-compliance with Security Council resolutions led to a change of attitude on the part of the Iraqi authorities.

We firmly support the work of Dr. Hans Blix and his UNMOVIC team, as well as that of Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA. Their professionalism and great diplomatic skill have been evident in recent weeks. We are certain the Security Council will continue to support their leadership so that they can achieve the objective of disarmament, which has not been possible for more than a decade.

We consider it indispensable that the weapons inspectors should be able, as soon as possible, to finish the work that the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) was unable to complete. It is urgent that they examine and verify the information the Iraqi Government is obligated to provide its compliance with Security Council resolutions. We are sure there will be credible, serious, respectful, professional and firm inspections, for which purpose we need genuine cooperation on the part of the Iraqi authorities.

UNMOVIC, however, must arrive on site with a renewed mandate from the Security Council that validates its determinations and adapts them to the new realities. For Colombia, there are political and legal reasons that make it necessary to define with precision, firmness and clarity the parameters for the inspections. This would be consistent with the statements of Dr. Blix to the effect that it is advisable to begin activities on the ground after the Council has reached a decision.

Our greatest challenge is striking a balance between, on one hand, the willingness of the Baghdad Government to fulfil its obligations, and, on the other, the steadfastness and determination that the international community must maintain to prevent a repetition of the challenge faced by the Council during the last four years.

Given present circumstances, this is a unique opportunity and, in any event, the only opportunity for a nation that must overcome isolation and rejoin the community of nations on equal footing. Therefore, the greatest challenge for Iraq is to demonstrate to the world that it does not constitute a threat to anyone.

Iraq not only has problems relating to its potential capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction. There is a disturbing humanitarian situation concerning the Iraqi population, for which the Iraqi Government is directly responsible. The oil-for-food programme established by the Council to respond effectively to that situation has shown favourable results, despite difficulties in its implementation.

There are also other pending issues which must be resolved satisfactorily. We refer to the return of Kuwaiti property by Iraq, especially the national archives, on which a commitment was recently reached. Additionally, there is the matter of prisoners-of-war and missing persons who are nationals of Kuwait and other States. The discussion on the return of weapons inspectors should not distract us from those obligations of the Baghdad Government.

Twelve years ago, when Iraq launched its terrible invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Colombia was, at that time also, a non-permanent member of this Council. On that occasion, Iraq disregarded the decisions of the Council and other means had to be resorted to, which, unfortunately, did not achieve their goal. This time we have great confidence in the statesmanship of the actors involved and their ability to ensure that we will not become involved in a political and military cycle similar to that of 1990. We, the Council members, must make a fundamental contribution, which would begin with a supreme effort to narrow differences and decide, in a cohesive, even unanimous, manner, what course to follow to resolve this critical conflict.

Let me conclude with two thoughts. First, we should separate the subject of this general debate from the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue. The political motivations that underlie our positions on the two situations are substantially different.

Secondly, developments in this situation and in other situations on the Council's agenda should not distract us from the fight against international terrorism, which is the biggest challenge facing today's world. Terrorism does not rest, and it has continued to show its almost unlimited capacity for causing destruction and death. We must continue facing it with renewed determination.


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