IRAQ: SECURITY COUNCIL ENDS WAR-RELATED MANDATES IN ‘MILESTONE’ SESSION
15 December - The Security Council today ended United Nations mandates on Iraq stemming from the 1991 and 2003 wars, including those on weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), in a move that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called a “milestone” on the country's path to normality.
“Its people have known tremendous hardship,” he said in his speech to the 15-member body. “They continue to struggle with insecurity and appalling violence. They lack jobs and basic services. But today we recognize how far the country has come in key aspects of its journey to normalize its status in the community of nations.”
Citing “the difficult history” on WMDs in Iraq, he hailed the lifting of its remaining obligations on the issue in the wake of its pledge to remain free of such weapons, enshrined in its constitution, and its accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
Saddam Hussein's WMD activities, particularly with regard to nuclear arms, were one of the reasons given for the United States-led invasion of 2003. None were subsequently found.
In one of the resolutions adopted today, this one unanimously, the Council terminated measures it imposed on Iraq starting in 1990 after its invasion of Kuwait and subsequent expulsion by US-led forces, including the destruction of all WMD materials. At the same time it urged the country to ratify the additional protocol to the NPT that allows for unannounced spot verification checks.
The Council also unanimously voted to end, by next June, provisions in its Resolution 1483 of 2003 stemming from the earlier oil-for-food programme under which Saddam Hussein was allowed to sell oil for humanitarian goods, despite sanctions imposed on him in a stand-off over inspections of his WMD activities. Under Resolution 1483, proceeds from petroleum and gas exports are deposited into an internationally audited Development Fund for Iraq “until such time as an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq is properly constituted.”
A third resolution, adopted by 14 votes with one abstention, asked Mr. Ban to terminate all residual activities stemming from the internationally supervised oil-for-food programme, first adopted in the Council's Resolution 986 of 1995, and updated in four subsequent resolutions.
In recognition of these steps towards normality, Mr. Ban commended Iraq's leaders for their recent agreements ending months of political deadlock, paving the way for a national partnership government – the first peaceful transition between elected governments under full Iraqi sovereignty.
He noted that a new government faces many challenges in providing stability and opportunity for all Iraqis, including the normalization of Arab-Kurd relations in disputed areas, ensuring the protection of all minorities, including Christians, and managing oil production and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
“The United Nations is eager to be part of this wide-ranging drive to normalization,” Mr. Ban said, noting that the planned US military drawdown will have major security implications for the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), which for more than seven years has been helping the conflict-ravaged country recover from the 2003 war. “The Mission will continue to need strong political and financial support from Member States.”
Presiding over the session, Vice-President Joe Biden of the United States, which holds the Council's monthly presidency, paid tribute to UNAMI's work, with particular homage to the first UNAMI chief in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in the massive terrorist bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003.
Reading out a Presidential Statement, Mr. Biden reaffirmed the Council's commitment to Iraq's independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and called on the Government to fulfil its remaining obligations to Kuwait – which include reparations for the 1990 invasion and demarcation of borders.
Taking part in the meeting, Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, also expressed his country's appreciation for the UN role.
In concluding his remarks to the Council, Mr. Ban addressed the Iraqi people directly. “You have suffered too much for too long,” he said. “I pay tribute to your resilience. There will be more hurdles ahead. But you have the wisdom and the capacity to overcome. You are now in the lead in your quest for a better life. The United Nations will continue to stand with you as an impartial partner. We are determined to fulfil that mandate, and help you find, once and for all, the path of prosperity and peace.”
In a bilateral meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Ban and Mr. Biden discussed the need for follow-through and the importance of the UN role in Iraq. Other matters they discussed included the need to de-escalate post-electoral tensions in Côte d'Ivoire, the importance of ensuring successful referenda in Sudan next month, and Lebanon, the Korean peninsula and UN reform.
Mr. Ban also met with Mr. Zebari to discuss Iraq's obligations, including those to Kuwait, and the progress in forming the new government.