- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, March 27 (UPI) — U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte walked out of the U.N. Security Council Thursday in protest against remarks by Baghdad's envoy who said Washington sought to destroy the Iraqi people.

The incident occurred at the end of two days of speeches by about 80 members of the world organization before the 15-member council as Iraq's Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri thanked the majority of speakers and criticized the U.S.-led coalition.

"The United States and the United Kingdom were hoodwinked when they were told that the Iraqi people would receive them with flowers and hugs," he said. "The Iraqi people, the women, the students, the peasants are now facing the American and United Kingdom forces in Iraq today.

"Therefore, when the United States found itself before a fierce resistance of the Iraqi people who are keen of their independence and the sovereignty and when they know that the Iraqi people and the Muslim people all over the world support it and call upon it to resist, the United States has started to destroy this Iraqi people," Aldouri Said.

Then, Negroponte and some aides got up and left the council chamber.

Afterward, a reporter asked, "Did you personally get up and leave the room during Ambassador Aldouri's speech to show your rejection of his statement?"

Negroponte responded, "I did sit through quite a long part of what he had to say but I think that — I'd heard enough after a certain amount of time and I didn't hear anything new in what he had to say. And of course, I don't accept any of the kinds of allegations and preposterous propositions that he put forward."

What Negroponte didn't hear, was Aldouri's continuing allegations, among others, of the allies targeting residential areas.

"The United States will destroy the Iraqi people because they hate it and because they will resist it and because they will pay the price in blood to get it out," said Aldouri. "The Iraqi people will defend the principles of the United Nations and all your (Security Council member's) principles, the principles of peace and security.

"Therefore, I call upon the Security Council that the United Kingdom the United States and Australia are about to start a real war of extermination that will kill everything."

Behind the scenes, members of the council negotiated a draft resolution for a new humanitarian program for the people of Iraq, by revamping the so-called oil-for-food program.

The program's problem was not that any nations were against getting humanitarian goods to Iraq's people, but that some council members, namely Russia and Syria, feared the wording of a reworked resolution could legitimize the U.S.-led invasion.

"It seems that we have found an agreement concerning humanitarian assistance to Iraq," said Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, who led the negotiations, announcing that a text was agreed on "so that we will be able to vote on it tomorrow (Friday) and of course it is our hope … that this finds the agreement of everybody and that we can adopt the resolution by consensus tomorrow."

The measure would allow "changes and adjustments" in the humanitarian program in order "to enable the secretariat and the secretary-general to keep this program going as soon as the situation on the ground allows it," he said.

There already was "more than $2.5 million in the pipeline right now" and that before the war more than 60 per cent of the people relied on oil-for-food, said Berlin's envoy.

"It is important to avoid a humanitarian disaster and of course it is important to get this going as quickly as possible again," he said.

After the resolution is approved, humanitarian aid would be sent in "as soon as the secretary-general decides that it is safe to send people back into the region and start distributing food and medicine and all other humanitarian goods that are needed in the country," he said, adding there was no discussion of a U.N. role in post-war Iraq, "But, this is a subject that certainly will come up later, also at the Security Council."

A strong proponent of U.N. involvement, among the leaders of several other nations was Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair. He stopped by U.N. headquarters, en route back to London, to brief Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his aides on talks with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington Wednesday and earlier Thursday. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw accompanied Blair.

Annan and Blair "met one-on-one for about 25 minutes before setting down with their full delegations," said the secretary-general's chief spokesman, Fred Eckhard. "The prime minister briefed the secretary general on his talks in Washington with President Bush.

"They then discussed the humanitarian situation in Iraq," said Eckhard. "They were informed that a draft resolution on the oil-for-food program could possibly be put to a vote in the Security Council as early as tomorrow and they welcomed the progress reached on that front."

The spokesman said Annan and Blair also discussed the next steps in a search for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Blair and Straw left without speaking to reporters.

Earlier, in the afternoon, the Security Council wrapped up its first debate on Iraq since the war began March 19. Speakers made an overwhelming appeal for humanitarian relief for the civilian population despite their differences over the military action being waged.

Beginning Wednesday, the formal debate was held at the request of the Arab League and the Non-Aligned Movement to hear the views of those states that are not members of the 15-nation body. Most speakers were against the war, many of who demanded immediate withdrawal of invading forces.

Some non-council members, however, said Iraq had squandered opportunities for peaceful efforts to disarm it of any weapons of mass destruction and the current military action was a last resort brought about by its non-compliance with Security Council resolutions.

Expressing regret that diplomacy had failed to resolve the question of Iraq's disarmament, many said the current military action was a violation of the basic principles of the U.N. Charter. They also said they could not understand how the council could remain silent in the face of the aggression by two of its permanent members against another member state.

That was a tricky question. Those states hold two of the five vetoes of the permanent members. Also, there is a question whether the anti-war faction could muster the necessary nine votes in the council for a resolution to pass, even before a veto is cast. So, if a resolution failed — there is none on the table now — it could be taken as an endorsement of the invasion.

However, should anti-war proponents be able to get the necessary nine votes and a veto is used, it could be one of the ways to open the door for the General Assembly of all 191 member states to debate the issue. However, the greater body only plays an advisory role, where the smaller council has the authority of international law. The assembly can only discuss the issue in face of a deadlocked council.

Notwithstanding all the machinations, the Iraqi ambassador, seemingly oblivious of Negroponte's walkout, continued his anti-U.S. harangue, winding up by saying the war was "the cause that leads to this deteriorating humanitarian situation" and calling on council members "to move toward taking a resolution to halt the war, to halt the aggression and to rid the Iraqi people of what they are facing."

He added promises that "the Iraqi peoples are committed to the Geneva Conventions and the provisions of international humanitarian law and they will see nothing from Iraq except self defense and defending of its people, its sovereignty and its independence."

Before meeting members of the council in closed-door consultations late in the afternoon, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix repeated that he has seen no sign Iraqis had used banned weapons in fighting, even saying once again he did not think they would use them.

The executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission said what he had heard from the United States side was that they had not seen any Scud missiles. Blix said his impression was the missiles used were al-Fatah with a range of around 150 kms or "a wee bit over." The council-imposed limit is 150 kms.

Asked whether the use of such missiles was clearly a violation, he said: "No, but the inspectors would like to have accurate information about it."

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