John DauthUN Security Council Open Debate on Iraq: Australian Statement

Wednesday 26 March 2003, New York

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

Mr President

It is now time for the members of the Security Council to get beyond the acrimony, narrow political ambitions and separate agendas which have hamstrung the Council in recent months and seize this opportunity to make good on their responsibilities.

It is time that the members of the Security Council look to the future for Iraq and the Iraqi people.

It is time that the members of the Security Council focus on what is at stake, and provide the guidance the international community is waiting for on humanitarian needs, long term reconstruction, and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Mr President

The Security Council's inability to agree on how to deal with the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was a great disappointment to many nations, nations who depend on this body to help maintain international peace and security. Let us be clear. The Council failed the international community. It failed to enforce its own resolutions. The question for Council members today is whether they will allow this to gather pace, to become a trend towards impotence, or whether they can stop the Council sliding towards irrelevance and help Iraq get back on its feet after decades of abusive leadership.

If Security Council members do not rise to this challenge, the Council will simply be bypassed by nations which believe the Iraqi people are deserving of their assistance. It is worth observing, Mr President, that the situation in which the Security Council finds itself is one of its own making, and only its members can set it back on track.

Mr President

Australia is a part of the coalition to disarm Iraq because we believe an Iraq with weapons of mass destruction represents a grave threat to our security, and to international security. Australia hopes that Iraq can be disarmed soon, and with the minimum of harm to civilians, as well as to coalition forces.

Australia's participation in the coalition is in complete accordance with international law. Existing Security Council Resolutions, including 687, 678 and 1441 provide authority for the use of force to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and to restore international peace and security to the region.

Mr President

Australia is matching its words with actions. We have provided an initial contribution of $17.5 million to UN humanitarian agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other NGOs for humanitarian assistance.

We have two ships with 100,000 tonnes of Australian wheat food aid waiting offshore to start deliveries. And Australian navy divers have been helping to clear the port of Umm Qasr of mines, which will enable the safe delivery of humanitarian supplies and equipment.

Australia will not stop at this: we are already positioned to play our part in longer term reconstruction work to help Iraq return to its rightful place in the international community.

But it is our strong preference that the Security Council play its part. In this, Australia asks the Council to recall the vital and constructive role that the UN played in assisting East Timor during its historical transition to independence.

Mr President

Members of this body have the responsibility to ensure that the greatest possible flexibility is provided to UN agencies in Iraq to allow them to get their job done. We urge Council members to agree on the tools which will allow rapid and effective delivery of immediate humanitarian assistance to Iraq, and help longer term rehabilitation and reconstruction. This applies most immediately to resolutions on restoring the Oil for Food program, and on longer term reconstruction issues.

We urge Council members to avoid indulgence in narrow, overly legalistic approaches which would tie the hands of the international community in helping Iraq. The Council will bear responsibility for the humanitarian consequences if it fails swiftly to ensure passage of a transitional Oil for Food resolution.

And we urge Council members to face up to the facts: Iraq is now being disarmed militarily in part because the Council was unable to deal effectively with Iraq. It need not have been this way. If the Security Council had spoken with one voice if it had made it clear that Saddam's cat and mouse games would no longer be tolerated then Saddam just might have recognised that he had no choice but to disarm peacefully. This disunity should not be continued.

If members allow narrow self-interest to prevent the Security Council from setting in place useful and effective mechanisms for Iraq's recovery, they will bear a heavy responsibility for consigning the Council and with it the wider UN role to a marginal place in contemporary history.