Press Releases

    SG/SM/8616
    25 February 2003

    Secretary-General Says War Not Inevitable, But Iraq Must Disarm; Inspections Should Be Allowed to Continue

    NEW YORK, 24 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Thirteenth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, delivered today by Lakhdar Brahimi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

    I wish to extend my warmest greetings to all the participants attending the Thirteenth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). While I regret that I am not able to be personally present among you for this very important event, I assure you that I value highly your Movement's strong commitment to the United Nations and continue to count on your firm support on behalf of the principles and work of the Organization. I wish also to heartily congratulate Malaysia on hosting this Summit and assuming the leadership of the Movement.

    This Summit sees Africa represented for the first time by the African Union, a new organization that holds great promise for the future of the Continent. I would also like to welcome Timor-Leste to its first Summit of NAM, and convey the continuing support and admiration of the United Nations for the people of Timor-Leste as they build a new and, in time, we hope, a prosperous nation. And finally, let me pay tribute to the President of Afghanistan, Mr. Hamid Karzai, who is leading his country out of a long period of conflict and suffering toward a better future for all its citizens.

    This Summit is taking place at a critical juncture, with the prospect of war in Iraq looming before us. However, I believe that war, even now, is not inevitable. Inspections, resumed just a few months ago, are beginning to yield results and should be allowed to continue until all weapons of mass destruction are destroyed or accounted for. As the international community considers the next steps in this process, I believe it is essential that we focus on what unites us, and not on what divides us. On the critical objectives, the Security Council has spoken with one voice. Iraq must disarm. It must cooperate fully and proactively with the inspectors. This makes clear that what is required at this stage is cooperation, persistence and constant pressure.

    The international community must make every effort to encourage Iraq to comply fully with Security Council resolution 1441 (2002) and to cooperate proactively with the inspectors so this objective is achieved peacefully. It is imperative that the Iraqi leadership understand the gravity and the urgency of the situation. Three months ago, in resolution 1441 (2002), the Security Council gave Iraq "a final opportunity" to comply with its disarmament obligations, and recalled, in that context, that it had repeatedly warned Iraq that it would face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations. For the sake of its own people, and for the sake of world security and world order -- I urge the Iraqi leadership to choose full transparency and cooperation with the inspectors to help avoid conflict.

    If the Security Council manages this crisis effectively and successfully, its credibility and influence will be considerably enhanced. If, on the other hand, the international community fails to agree on a common position, and action is taken without the authority of the Security Council, the legitimacy of, and support for, any action will be seriously impaired. States and peoples around the world attach fundamental importance to such legitimacy, and to the international rule of law.

    The support and active participation of NAM in our collective effort to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis regarding Iraq is certainly much appreciated by all. What happens in Iraq will have serious implications for other issues for many years to come -- including international terrorism and the situations in the occupied Palestinian territory, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

    This is, of course, a crisis with potentially very serious humanitarian implications. Already, the humanitarian situation in Iraq is of great concern. The population is highly vulnerable, with 1 million children under five chronically malnourished, and 5 million Iraqis lacking access to safe water and sanitation. As you are aware, United Nations agencies are taking prudent steps to prepare for the humanitarian consequences of any future conflict by prepositioning materials and deploying emergency field personnel.

    I remain, as I know you are, deeply concerned by the volatile situation in the Middle East. Violence between Israelis and Palestinians has continued unabated, resulting in further loss of life, injury and destruction. Moreover, the humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory is worsening. Without the prospect of some forward movement on the political front, it is difficult to imagine how the current cycle of violence and counter-violence can be stopped.

    The human and material losses sustained by the Palestinian people in the last two years have been nothing short of catastrophic. The deplorable situation in the occupied Palestinian territory has kept the whole region in a continuous state of crisis for over two years now, with no end in sight. Hundreds of lives have been lost, mostly among Palestinians, but also among Israelis. Tragically, and unacceptably, many of the victims have been children.

    Ultimately the political stalemate must be broken. The best path towards ensuring the security of Israelis and Palestinians, and a comprehensive regional peace, remains moving forward with the Quartet's "road map". Through this process, the parties could realize the vision of two States -- Israel and an independent, viable, sovereign and democratic Palestine -- living side-by-side in peace and security. It is incumbent on the international community and the Quartet, individually and collectively, to consistently encourage the parties to give this vision and the road map their wholehearted support.

    The current focus on Iraq should not distract us from effectively confronting the myriad of political, economic, social, environmental and other challenges in every region. Whether it is the concern about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or the crisis of governance now engulfing Latin America, it is clear that the world needs urgent and concerted action to address common threats through multilateral action.

    Africa is also facing a series of crisis relating to internal conflicts, from Côte D'Ivoire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Sudan. The United Nations is actively engaged in promoting the resolution of each of the conflicts which, if allowed to continue, can cast a dark shadow over the future of the Continent. In Côte d'Ivoire, we are struggling to calm a situation that has provoked tragic rifts in that country, along ethnic and religious lines, and to cope with a crisis that has caused hundreds of deaths and large-scale displacements of people. The signing by 10 Ivorian parties of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement on 24 January, and its subsequent endorsement by the Conference of Heads of State held in Paris on 25-26 January 2003, has provided a useful political framework for a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in that country. This framework has already received the support of the United Nations Security Council. We must all do our utmost to help Côte d'Ivoire regain the secure path it had known for so many decades. I call again on all Ivorians, and particularly the country's political leaders, to make the agreement they signed last month a concrete first step towards peace.

    The political process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains of deep concern. While the Congolese parties are scheduled to meet in Pretoria next week to discuss outstanding issues leading to the endorsement of the All Inclusive Agreement, hostilities continue on the ground, especially in the north-east. The human rights situation in the country also continues to be of deep concern. The installation of the transitional Government will mark the beginning of reconciliation and nation-building activities leading to the holding of elections. In the meantime, most foreign troops have withdrawn from the country and the disarmament and repatriation to Rwanda of ex-Far/Interahmawe elements is moving forward, despite considerable obstacles on the ground created by local militias and other groups.

    In Sudan, the prospects for peace seem brighter today than at any time in the past three decades. The persistent effort of regional countries with the determined support and assistance of the international community is beginning to bear fruit. The Sudanese parties have concluded a cessation of hostilities agreement and their discussions on power and wealth-sharing have made real progress. The challenge ahead for the Sudanese parties is to stay the course and conclude a comprehensive agreement. The NAM has an important role to play in this effort, in cooperation with the African Union and the United Nations, and I appeal to you to help us bring this conflict to an end.

    At the Millennium Summit in 2000, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration which summed up their aspirations for the creation of an equitable, fair, just, more peaceful and stable world in the twenty-first century. The Declaration not only set out clear targets for sustainable development, poverty eradication, protecting our common environment, fighting terrorism, HIV/AIDS, providing education for children, help for refugees and displaced persons, it also called for upholding human rights, promoting democracy, the rule of law and good governance. As we all strive to make this a safer and more just world, let us be guided by these noble aims.

    I wish all of you a most productive and successful Summit.

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