SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Costa Rica’s highest court ruled that the United States cannot name this pacifist Central American country as one of its coalition partners in Iraq, and the government was preparing a letter yesterday asking Washington to remove it from the list.
The White House Web site still had the country listed yesterday.
Tom Casey, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said Costa Rica’s membership in the coalition was an expression of the country’s opposition to terrorism, but agreed that Costa Rica provided neither troops nor economic assistance for Iraq’s reconstruction.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, “We’re pleased by the strong international support for the ongoing efforts to help the Iraqi people build a free and peaceful future.” But, he added, “If that’s what they want, then I’m sure we will do that.”
The court ruling, announced late Wednesday, was cheered by a country that widely rejected the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
“I think it’s great,” said Rosario Camacho, a 23-year-old student. “I was opposed to Costa Rica being on the list because it couldn’t support the war. It is a sovereign country and supporter of peace.”
Costa Rica has a pacifist history. The country has no army, and Oscar Arias, who served as Costa Rica’s president from 1986 to 1990, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his work bringing peace to Central America.
The court’s ruling came on a motion by Attorney General Farid Beirute, who argued the constitution bars support for military action that is not authorized by the United Nations.
President Abel Pacheco said yesterday he agreed only to join countries that were against terrorism, and he said he would comply with the court’s order and ask to have Costa Rica removed from the so-called “coalition of the willing” list.
“I was just supporting a friend in the fight against terrorism,” he said.
Costa Rica received $5 million in U.S. aid in 2002.
The issue erupted when local newspapers noted that the White House had listed Costa Rica as a member of the coalition “that has already begun military operations to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.”
The White House page in question, www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/news/20030327-10.html, reads: “Forty-nine countries are publicly committed to the Coalition, including … Costa Rica.”
Dated Feb. 4 this year, the Web page continues: “Contributions from Coalition member nations range from: direct military participation, logistical and intelligence support, specialized chemical/biological response teams, over-flight rights, humanitarian and reconstruction aid, to political support.”
The Costa Rican action comes amid growing fears of terrorist activity in the region.
International terrorists have posted Web sites threatening to attack El Salvador for its continuing military support in Iraq. El Salvador is the only country in the region with troops in Iraq. Honduras pulled out its soldiers earlier this year.