John DauthSecurity Council Open Debate on Iraq: Australian Statement

Tuesday 18 February 2003, New York

Statement on behalf of Australia by Australia's Ambassador to the UN John Dauth to the UN Security Council


Australia welcomes this opportunity to address the Security Council on what is the most critical issue currently facing the international community.

On 8 November 2002 the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1441 affording Iraq a "final opportunity" to comply with its disarmament obligations.  This resolution came eleven years and seven months after the Security Council first adopted a resolution - Resolution 687 – demanding Iraq give up its weapons of mass destruction.

Given the amount of time that has passed we had hoped Resolution 1441 would be the final step in resolving this issue.  Given its unanimous adoption by the Security Council we had hoped that the Government of Iraq would finally get the message.

But sadly, eleven years and now ten months after the Security Council first demanded Iraq disarm, Saddam Hussein still has not understood the message. 

Resolution 1441 set up two objective criteria of compliance;  the provision by Iraq of a full and complete declaration of its WMD programmes; and unconditional cooperation with weapons inspectors.

More than three months later, by any objective reading of those criteria, Iraq has failed to meet its obligations.

On 7 December 2002 Iraq delivered a declaration that was patently incomplete.  As UNMOVIC and the IAEA noted, it provided no new information and failed to answer serious outstanding questions - among them questions about the production of Anthrax, VX, and Mustard Gas. 

On 27 January 2003, after some 60 days of inspections, neither UNMOVIC nor the IAEA were able to say that Iraq was actively cooperating.  Again serious questions about VX, about thousands of litres of chemical and biological agents, remained unanswered.

On 5 February 2003 U.S. Secretary of State Powell presented further evidence that Iraq was not cooperating; indeed that it was actively trying to subvert the inspection process.  Australia found the intelligence presented by Secretary Powell, including communications intercepts and satellite photos, compelling. 

If some believe this information was open to interpretation, that is their right.  But, from what we know of Saddam's record of deception, I am not sure we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt.

And on 14 February, after almost 80 days of inspections, UNMOVIC and the IAEA again reported to the Council.  What did we hear? That Iraq had been working to extend the range of its missile systems beyond proscribed limits.  And what didn't we hear?  We didn't hear that Iraq had finally decided to cooperate immediately, actively and unconditionally with inspectors.

It is patently clear, by the criteria established under UNSCR 1441 that Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations.  The question today is what the Security Council, as the primary multilateral instrument of international peace and security, going to do about it.

Last year the Security Council spent eight weeks putting in place a robust inspection regime.  Resolution 1441 gave inspectors the tools they needed to verify Iraqi disarmament - and it is verifying Iraqi disarmament which is their job, not a game of "catch as catch can".

But this was only one part of the solution to this problem.  Active Iraqi cooperation remains the other, more fundamental, part.  And this is still missing.  In the examples I have already listed, in everything we heard from Mr Blix and Dr El-Baradei, the one thing missing was Iraqi cooperation – "immediate, active and unconditional cooperation" as demanded by Resolution 1441. 

All of us understand the importance of this.  I have heard no one here say that doubling the number of inspectors, giving them more time and more resources will work without Iraqi cooperation.   It is this problem that the Security Council should be focusing on today.

Yes the Security Council could give Iraq more time.  Yes we could wait until March; we could wait another three months.  But do we really think more time will make Iraq cooperate?  Does the Government of Iraq really need three more months to make this decision, when it should take no more than three minutes? 

In Australia's view the Security Council should not wait forever to confront this issue.  Either Iraq has complied or it hasn't.  In our view the Council should move quickly to consider a further resolution that deals decisively with Iraq's failure to comply with Resolution 1441.

The Security Council has a fundamental responsibility to assert its authority.  If it does not, it places in jeopardy not only the cause of Iraqi disarmament, but the very basis of our current system of collective security.  

UNSCR 1441 gave Iraq a "final opportunity" to meet its obligations and promised serious consequences if it did not comply.  Is the Security Council now saying Iraq should be given yet more opportunities, and forget about the serious consequences?  What message does this send to other states prepared to thumb their noses at international law and international norms?

Delays and divisions in the Security Council will only play into Iraq’s hands.  We cannot allow a tyrant to evade Council decisions.  The Security Council must stand united - but united around what is fundamental, not on distractions.  The Security Council must act decisively to ensure that, after twelve years, Iraq finally meets its obligations.