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Dr Aston CalvertUnited Nations Security Council Open Debate on Iraq

16 October 2002

Statement by Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Mr John Dauth, LVO


Australia welcomes this opportunity to address the Security Council on an issue we consider to be of singular importance – Iraq's non-compliance with Security Council resolutions.

There has been considerable speculation about what has motivated the international community to pursue this issue so forcefully in recent months.  All manner of conspiracy theories have been aired. 

But let us be perfectly clear. This issue is about one thing and one thing only.  Iraq's continued  failure to meet its commitments to the international community embodied in at least nine Security Council resolutions.

Almost twelve years ago the international community, through the Security Council,  acted resolutely to expel Iraq from Kuwait.  And in the aftermath of that conflict the Security Council further set out, in plain, unambiguous terms, what the Government of Iraq had to do to ensure that it no longer posed a threat to its neighbours or to global security.

For over a decade Iraq has avoided most of these obligations - obligations that were agreed by the Security Council under the mandatory provisions of the UN Charter.  To this day the Government of Iraq has failed to comply with 23 out of 27 obligations contained in nine Security Council resolutions.

People ask why Iraq?  The answer is simple.

Iraq today poses a clear danger to international security because it has sought to acquire weapons of mass destruction and has a well established record of using them against its neighbours, and indeed against its own people.

Iraq's defiance of the international collective will threatens the very basis of our system of collective security.  It threatens the global non-proliferation regime that so many, including Australia, have worked so hard to build.

If Iraq is allowed to violate both the will of the UN and the commitments embodied in key arms control instruments it would gravely damage the international system.   It would encourage the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to other countries and even to other regions.  It would encourage some to believe that treaty obligations – such as those taken on by Iraq in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Biological Weapons Convention – can be flouted with impunity.

Iraq and WMD

It is worth focusing for the moment on what it is these Security Council resolutions require the government of Saddam Hussein to do. 

The UN Security Council's requirements of Iraq embodied in Resolution 687 were agreed to by Iraq in 1991.  For  almost twelve years the government of Iraq has been asked to disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction,  to provide a full and frank accounting of  its WMD programs, and to cooperate with UN agencies seeking to examine and monitor its WMD facilities.  For almost twelve years it has refused to do so.

The international community had very good grounds for pressing Iraq on this issue.  Despite continuous Iraqi obstruction, subterfuge and plain deceit, from 1991 to 1998 UNSCOM was able to discover, document and destroy elements of a massive Iraqi program to acquire a full suite of WMD; nuclear, chemical, biological weapons and their means of delivery.

But UNSCOM's job was never finished.  As UNSCOM reported to the Security Council in early 1999, Iraq's claims that it had destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons could not be verified.  And as of late 1998 UNSCOM assessed that Iraq had a residual, illegal long-range missile capability, a quantity of chemical munitions, the ability to manufacture more of those, including VX , and a biological weapons manufacturing capability.

Since 1998 the international community has had the benefit of neither inspections nor on-going monitoring of Iraq's WMD programs.  For four years the UN has tried to resolve this impasse without success.  Four years in which, as the information provided to the Security Council by the UK, U.S. and others highlights, Iraq has used the opportunity presented by the absence of UN inspections and monitoring to accelerate its WMD programs.

Australia is convinced that the Government of Iraq's ambitions to acquire WMD remain undiminished.  Australia is convinced that Iraq has made continuing attempts to procure equipment, material and technologies for its WMD program; that it has been working to increase its chemical and biological weapon capability over the past four years; that it has worked to extend the range of its ballistic missiles; and that it has continued to work on uranium enrichment and weapons design for a nuclear device.  

We acknowledge that some members of the UN take a different view.  But few could argue that our concerns about Iraq's WMD ambitions are not real concerns.  That our fears that Iraq has used WMD before and could easily use it again are not unreasonable.  That in the aftermath of September 11 and, I say with the greatest sadness, the events of October 12 in Bali, the international community must be scrupulous in addressing threats to international security or face the disastrous consequences.

There is one way to end the debate.  And that is for Iraq to do what it has refused to do for the last four years.  The Government of Iraq has the power to resolve this issue peacefully.  Make a full, final and frank declaration of its WMD holdings.  Give UN inspectors full, unconditional and unfettered access.  And provide for on-going monitoring and verification to prove that it has given up WMD once and for all.

What the international community must do

But if it lies in the Government of Iraq's gift to end this situation once and for all, the international community also has a responsibility.  In recent months we have, on the surface at least, seen something of a change of approach by Iraq to the question of inspections – to be sure a change which is yet to be tested.   Indeed Australia congratulates the officials of UNMOVIC and the IAEA on the practical steps they have taken toward the resumption of inspections. 

But this change has only come about because of concerted international pressure.  Because the government of Iraq is finally starting to understand the looming consequences of continued defiance. 

We must not, as we say in Australia, drop the ball now.  The members of the Security Council have a profound responsibility to ensure that the international community's recent pressure on Iraq does not go to waste.  We urge them to pass a new and robust Security Council resolution which provides the strongest possible basis for unconditional and unfettered inspections of Iraq.  For it is only through such inspections that the international community can be completely satisfied that Iraq no longer poses a threat to international security and this almost 12 year long saga can be brought to an end.

Australia considers that the United Nations has been patient.  It has worked hard to satisfy Iraq's concerns about the previous inspection body, UNSCOM, by designing a new and more streamlined inspection body, UNMOVIC.  And the Secretary General had been unstinting in his efforts to encourage Iraq to comply with Security Council resolutions.  But we cannot afford to let Iraq's defiance stymie these efforts endlessly.

Australia stands ready to do its part.  We have a proud history of contributing to international disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.  110 Australians served with UNSCOM – we were the fourth largest national contributor.  Australians have been trained as inspectors by UNMOVIC and Australia is ready to participate in resumption of IAEA weapons inspections.  I hope that Australians will again make a substantial contribution to the dismantling of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

The risks of inaction

People ask why must we act on Iraq now?  What has changed?  What hasn't changed?

In the wake of September 11 of course everything has changed.  And,  if one needed any more convincing, one only need go as far as the terrible events in Bali on October 12 – a tragedy which has struck deeply at the heart of my country.  If there is one thing September 11 and October 12 highlight it is that one cannot allow threats to international security to go unaddressed. 

But it also true that nothing has changed.  For four years we have debated what to do about Iraq and nothing has been done.  Can we afford to allow this situation to continue indefinitely?  Can we afford for Iraq's defiance to be rewarded by a slowly fading interest?  What message does this send to others in the international community prepared to challenge international norms?  That if you hang on long enough eventually the international community will give up?

The risks presented by inaction are very real ones.  It is the risk that an Iraqi Government, which has shown no compunction about using WMD in the past, will once again be able to threaten its neighbours and the world, but this time with a full suite of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

It is the risk that a regime that has been indiscriminate in its support for terrorist groups will one day hand one of these groups either a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon or pass on the knowledge to build one.

Some may debate the likelihood of either of these scenarios coming to pass.  But can we afford to be wrong?  Is what we are asking Iraq to do so unreasonable that we can afford to be wrong?

On October 12 an as yet unknown number of innocent Australians and other nationals were the victims of an attack of indiscriminate and indescribable savagery.  It was a grim demonstration to us that you cannot hide yourself from threats to international security.  That in today's globalised world we act together or face the consequences together. 

As a number of world leaders have already noted, unless we step up to the mark to address the threat posed to the world by Iraq's pursuit of WMD today, we will all come to regret our inaction tomorrow.


This page last modified: Monday, 21 October 2002 05:11:23 PM

Local Date: Thursday, 05 April 2007 03:51:19 PM