UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 14 (UPI) — Despite the gravity of Friday’s debate on Iraq weapons inspection, and the threat of war over it, in the U.N. Security Council laughter could erupt on more than one occasion.
At one point Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany, this month’s president of the council, rapped his timid-toned gavel and admonished observers who burst into applause after one “intervention,” as the speeches are called, “Even on St. Valentine’s Day, applause is not allowed.” Protocol forbids applause in the council chamber.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin wound up his pro-extended inspection remarks by recalling U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s recent description of France and Germany as part of an “old Europe” as opposed to the British-led U.S. allies in Europe.
“This message comes to you today from an old country, France, from a continent like mine, Europe, that has known wars, occupation and barbarity,” Villepin said. “An old country that does not forget and knows everything it owes to the freedom-fighters who came from America and elsewhere and yet has never ceased to stand upright in the face of history and before mankind. It wishes resolutely to act with all the members of the international community. Faithful to its values, it believes in our ability to build together a better world (applause).”
That seemed to be the cue.
“Mr. President,” addressing Fischer, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, “I speak on behalf of a very old country founded — (laughter) — founded in 1066 by the French. (Laughter, scattered applause.) Thank you.”
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was proud to be at the blonde horseshoe-shaped table representing “a relatively new country on the face of the Earth, but I think I take some credit sitting here as being the representative of the oldest democracy that is assembled here around this table.
“I’m proud of that, a democracy that believes in peace, a nation that has tried in the course of its history to show how people can live in peace with one another, but a democracy that has not been afraid to meet its responsibilities on the world stage when it has been challenged — more importantly, when others in the world have been challenged or when the international order has been challenged or when the international institutions of which we are a part have been challenged.”
He was not applauded, but Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, who made no reference to “old,” was applauded after he called for more inspections to delay possible military action.
But when it came turn for Tang Jiaxuan, the foreign minister of China, to speak, he just discreetly pointed out he represented an “old civilization” that learned a long time ago war did not pay.