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Western Press Review: The UN Debates A New Resolution On Iraq, Chechnya, Illegal Arms

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 8 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Much commentary in the Western media today focuses on the new U.S.-drafted resolution on Iraq, which the United Nations is expected to vote on today. Other issues addressed today include arms trading in Eastern and Central Europe, and whether Russia's ongoing military campaign in Chechnya is merely "reproducing terrorism."


This week's edition of the "Economist" says "If the text drafted by America and Britain is adopted by the [UN Security] Council, Iraq will have seven days to confirm that it accepts it, and another 30 to disclose all its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) activities. Within 45 days, a team of UN inspectors will visit Iraq for the first time since 1998, armed with sweeping new powers to go anywhere and see anything." Within 60 days, these inspectors must report on their progress. And any false statements or omissions on the part of the Iraqi regime, or attempt to obstruct inspections, "would result in the convening of the Security Council -- and, though the resolution itself does not explicitly say this, the possibility of war."

The magazine says Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "has every reason to cooperate, if he is to save his head." If he really does decide to give up his weapons, and if the inspectors can prove it, "the case for war evaporates." But if Saddam squanders this "final opportunity," as the draft resolution puts it, the magazine says "armed force may be the only way forward." But "[by] the same token, the Americans should give this new resolution a reasonable chance to succeed."


The British "Independent" also discusses the new draft resolution on Iraq that is to be voted on today at the UN Security Council. The draft reviews the history of Iraq's decade-long refusal to comply with the UN, sets out the terms for new weapons inspections and provides for "consequences" should Iraq fail to cooperate.

The "Independent" says it is clear that the U.S. already "has no faith in inspections." It sees them merely as a way to court international opinion and as a way to drum up domestic support for military action.

The paper says the draft sitting before the UN Security Council today "speaks only of 'serious consequences' for Iraq, should it fail to comply with UN demands. But "when the wording of a UN resolution is ambiguous like this, its meaning depends crucially on what the permanent members of the Security Council say it means when they pass it." France and Russia, two of the three permanent Security Council members that have been least supportive of a military solution, now have "considerable scope to claim that the resolution does not automatically authorize military action."

In this sense, the paper says, "the passing of a resolution solves nothing. If the worst comes to the worst, the U.S. will go to war with only Britain by its side, arguing [that] the action has been authorized by the UN." But the "Independent" says the UN resolution does not provide the U.S. or Britain "with the moral cover needed to make war."


Stefan Ulrich, writing in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," looks at the latest developments in the Iraq debate at the UN Security Council. Ulrich examines the U.S. attitude to the debate and says it is "acting like a card player calling trumps, saying either you let me win or I'll turn the table upside-down." In fact, from the very beginning of this debate, Ulrich says the U.S. had threatened to go it alone should the UN fail to comply with demands to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Now a compromise resolution has been tabled which does not specifically authorize a military attack, and the Security Council may hope to have a say in Iraq's future fate. From this Ulrich concludes, "the game table is still standing quite firmly, even though it's slightly shaky."

There are three reasons for this compromise, according to Ulrich. First, the U.S. itself has a need for the UN and for allies in the Middle East. "Such allies can be won over more easily if the UN legitimizes Washington's actions. This is a trump in the UN's hands."

Secondly, now that this international organization is finally asserting itself and playing an active role, it is more difficult for Washington to treat it as an irrelevant outsider.

Finally, the UN is still the best framework for the development of an American counterweight, says Ulrich. France's resistance carries insufficient weight. There is a need for other players, such as Germany, "to keep America playing at the table."


A news analysis in "The Los Angeles Times" by Sonni Efron cites some observers as saying that, by going through the diplomatic process and making concessions to the United Nations, "a world body it has often criticized," the U.S. administration "has restored credibility with potential allies who were outraged by its initial argument that it needed no international mandate to attack Iraq."

Efron cites analysts as saying the "goodwill the United States has fostered should help if Iraq refuses to comply with the resolution and the Bush administration returns to the Security Council and assembles an international coalition for a war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein."

In addition, Efron says that according to a senior U.S. administration official, the negotiation process has also forced each UN Security Council member government "to confront the Iraq problem, and ultimately to agree that Hussein was not complying with disarmament obligations, that that was unacceptable and that meaningful inspections were essential."


A second "Los Angeles Times" piece, by Norah Voncent, says "If -- or almost certainly when -- [the U.S. goes] to war in Iraq, it will not be for humanitarian reasons." The U.S. "will go to strike preemptively at terrorism's biggest opportunist and shadiest eminence grise, Saddam Hussein." But there are other, "less presentable, reasons too," she says. "We will go, as we did in 1991, to secure our oil interests in the region, to wrest an indispensable commodity from the hands of a hostile vendor. And finally, it's probably fair to say we will also go so that [the younger] Bush may correct his father's lingering mistake and at last depose this gravest of political threats," Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Vincent says only war "can secure a reprieve for the Iraqi people and is therefore justifiable in humanitarian terms." A policy of appeasement "would subject Iraqis to yet more violence, subjugation and deprivation at the hands of their kleptocratic leader. Diplomacy has failed. There is no bargaining with Hussein," she says, and "no appealing to his better nature."


A "Washington Post" editorial discusses recent allegations that Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and Belarus have been supplying military components to Iraq, in violation of UN sanctions. Following the claims, the U.S. "condemned and isolated" the Belarusian regime, suspended millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, and four senior officials involved in Yugoslavia's arms deals with Iraq were forced to resign. "But these are cosmetic measures," the paper says. The real question is how to deal with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma -- "two politicians who say they want to lead their countries into the West yet refuse to respect its most basic norms."

The "Post" says Kostunica "appeals to lingering Serbian nationalism stoked by [former Serbian leader Slobodan] Milosevic." And "Until there is a decisive break with the past, discussions of European Union concessions or of including Yugoslavia in NATO's Partnership for Peace should be stopped."

For NATO member governments, Kuchma has become "untouchable. Yet his struggling country of 50 million probably cannot preserve its fragile independence from Russia unless it is nourished by the West. Aid to Ukraine, meanwhile, should not be stopped," the paper says. Instead, "it must be carefully channeled into building the moderate political movements seeking to peacefully remove Mr. Kuchma and his cronies from power."


In a contribution to "The New York Times," special correspondent Anna Politkovskaya of the Moscow-based "Novaya Gazeta" daily says it is now clear that the methods used by the Russian military "during the so-called anti-terrorism operation in Chechnya have been transformed into methods for reproducing terrorism." She says "A young generation of radical Chechen fighters, reared on these Russian methods, is now fighting far more cruelly for the liberation of their land from federal forces than Aslan Maskhadov, the aging Chechen president."

These fighters now have "their own war," she says, and many are now beyond Maskhadov's control. "There are about a dozen of these Chechen commanders who need to be brought to the table. This seems like madness, but there is no other choice." On the Russian side, she says, most politicians "have been interested mostly in scoring political points for themselves" on the Chechen issue. Politkovskaya suggests former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov "might be able to open new talks. He is not hated by the Chechens and he has direct access to [President Vladimir] Putin. Moreover, he is respected by the Kremlin hawks."

Politkovskaya says a dialogue must be opened that will make possible either "a cease fire under international observers," or "Chechen self-determination." In any event, "bringing about this dialogue is for Russia's own sake; there will be no end to terrorism without it."


A "Le Monde" editorial today says the UN Security Council vote on a new resolution on Iraq will mark the end of "a tremendous politico-diplomatic battle that has been taking place these last weeks in New York," a battle that concerned the "respect for certain elementary, but fundamental, principles of the international community."

Even before the 11 September attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush had made it clear that he wanted to finish off Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "Iraq is a little test of the virility of the American political scene, particularly for Republicans," says "Le Monde." But the U.S. has never been able to prove the link between Baghdad and the 11 September attacks, nor establish links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, the daily says.

Never mind, said Washington -- Iraq is already in violation of UN resolutions and is developing weapons of mass destruction that threaten the United States and its allies. Having thus placed itself in a state of self defense, Washington argued that it was already authorized to attack Iraq according to the UN Charter.

Eventually, the U.S. administration changed tack, the paper says. It finally understood that in order to have the support of the international community in an Iraq campaign, it must go through the UN. "Le Monde" lauds the government in Paris for insisting that the new resolution should not authorize force as the immediate consequence of Iraqi noncompliance, but rather calls for a "re-examination" of the situation.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)