Inspections, Not War, Say Canadian Groups

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Posted by Jeff from ( on Sunday, September 22, 2002 at 11:57PM :

Inspections, Not War, Say Canadian Groups
Fri Sep 20, 9:26 AM ET

Jim Lobe,OneWorld US

With war drums in Washington beating ever louder, four major Canadian development organizations are urging their government to stick with the United Nations ( news - web sites) as the only mechanism by which to resolve rising tensions over Iraq.

• Canadian Council for International Cooperation
• Canadian Peace Alliance
• Foreign Policy in Focus
• OneWorld Full Coverage of United Nations

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In a communiqué issued Thursday, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), the North-South Institute (NSI), the United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada), and the Mennonite Central Committee, one of the few international relief groups operating in Iraq, called on Canadian leaders to focus UN efforts on disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, rather than on ousting the government of President Saddam Hussein ( news - web sites), as United States President George W. Bush ( news - web sites) is urging.

"There are no grounds in international law for 'regime change' to be a legitimate basis for one sovereign state declaring war on another," according to Gerry Barr, CCIC's president. "The goal of preventing Iraq from developing and using weapons of mass destruction is important, but it should be done under UN auspices and accompanied by an agenda for regional disarmament and development," he added.

The four groups commended the government of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for insisting that the Iraq crisis be dealt with through the UN and for opposing unilateral action by the U.S.

"The hostilities between the United States and Iraq are of grave concern," noted Roy Culpeper, president of the Ottawa-based NSI. "To attack Iraq would not be a legitimate extension of the 'war on terror.' Given Iraq's agreement to allow weapons inspectors into the country, this is the time to invest in peace, democracy and development, not to continue with threats and military build-ups," he said.

The four groups spoke as Bush made clear Thursday that if the UN Security Council failed to back a resolution with the threat of force in the event that Iraq failed to comply, Washington would act unilaterally or with some of its allies.

"[I]f the United Nations Security Council won't deal with the problem, the United States and our friends will," Bush declared, even as he sent to Congress a draft resolution authorizing "all means" necessary to disarm Iraq and oust Hussein. While the resolution has strong support among Republicans, some Democrats have said they oppose giving Bush a "blank check."

Bush's decision last week to seek a resolution from the Security Council that would authorize new UN weapons inspections marked a major victory for Canada and other NATO ( news - web sites) allies that had long urged the U.S. president to use that route rather than to act on his own against Iraq which Washington accuses of systematically violating previous Council resolutions since Baghdad invaded Kuwait 12 years ago, developing weapons of mass destruction, and backing al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Baghdad responded swiftly earlier this week by announcing that UN inspectors, who were withdrawn from Iraq in 1998, could return and carry out their work "without conditions."

The invitation, however, was denounced by Washington and its closest NATO ally, Britain, as a ploy. Secretary of State Colin Powell ( news - web sites) said Thursday that Washington was prepared to prevent the inspectors from returning unless the Council first approved a resolution that would spell out the consequences, including possible military force, if Iraq fails to fully cooperate with the inspectors.

The chief UN arms inspector, Hans Blix, who is backed by Russia and France, has said he wants to send in his inspectors as soon as possible. France has favored two resolutions: the first authorizing the inspections, and the second authorizing sanctions, possibly including force, if the promised cooperation is not forthcoming.

Such an approach had been strongly rejected by the administration's hawks, notably Vice President Dick Cheney ( news - web sites) and Pentagon ( news - web sites) chief Donald Rumsfeld who until last week argued publicly against asking the Council to conduct new inspections. Significantly, Rumsfeld returned to that theme Thursday in testimony before Congress, saying that UN inspectors were unlikely to uncover weapons of mass destruction developed and hidden by Baghdad.

The Canadian groups, however, stressed that the Council was the only defensible route. "Any state which takes unilateral action against another state sets a dangerous precedent and undermines the very principles upon which our international system is based," said Steve Mason, UNA-Canada's executive director. "One of the primary reasons that the UN was founded was to establish a collective mechanism to deal with threats to international peace and security."

-- Jeff
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