|Iraq : Speech by The Rt Hon Chris Patten, CH.
|Plenary Session of the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 4 September 2002
SPEECH/02/364- Check against delivery.
Over the past few weeks Iraq has figured more and more prominently on the international agenda. The situation is evolving day by day, and the risk of a very grave new crisis is increasing.
Many important voices have been raised not least in Washington about how to deal with Iraq and with the problems linked to its development of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Positions have been expressed by many key players, including European governments. I also note what was said yesterday.
Against the background of this tumult of speeches and articles, I would like today simply to concentrate on the things we know with certainty and on which we should all be able to agree:
First, as pointed out by Baroness Nicholson's excellent overview of the present situation in Iraq, which we discussed last May, we can have no doubt about the evil nature of the regime led by Saddam Hussein. That was made absolutely clear in that excellent report. Terrible events have occurred throughout the twenty-three years of his rule: wars, aggression, and brutal internal repression including the use of chemical weapons. He used chemical weapons against his own people. There is, in his country, a total absence of basic human and civil rights. I have no doubt that the Iraqi people would be better served by new leadership. And not just the Iraqi people, but the Middle East region: the whole world, indeed. This is not the only region in the world which would be better off without its current leadership, there are others, but this one is high on the list.
Second, following the departure of UN inspectors in 1998, a UN Security Council Resolution (number 1284) was adopted in December 1999, establishing a new arms inspection entity, UNMOVIC, and setting out what Iraq has to do to have UN sanctions lifted. Notably, it had to co-operate with the inspectors "in all respects". This means that Iraq should give full unrestricted access to UNMOVIC inspectors to any site, any area, any equipment, and any installation at any moment, without any conditions.
Yet Iraq never complied with this Security Council Resolution just as it had failed to co-operate with the UN throughout the 1990s: (in all 9 UNSC resolutions) either refusing entry to UN inspectors, or imposing unacceptable conditions on their operations.
According to the UNSCOM report of January 1999, there are legitimate suspicions that the Iraqi regime is developing Weapons of Mass Destruction. At this point in time, no clear evidence has emerged. Although it should be noted that the Iraqi government has not facilitated the task of the UNSCOM inspectors to gather evidence about this.
I have one question - if they have nothing to hide, why do they bar access?
Two conclusions stand out clearly:
First, we must continue to press for full Iraqi compliance with the UN resolutions. Is there anyone in the European Parliament who disagrees with this? The EU Presidency declaration of 20 May reaffirms EU support for UNSC resolution 1284 and unhindered access for UNMOVIC inspectors.
Second, we must recognise that efforts to force Iraqi compliance are more likely to succeed if they are backed by a coalition of concerned parties as broad and effective as that which was put together in 1991 with great diplomatic finesse.
We must all respect the authority of the United Nations and of international law. The Security Council has charted the way forward in dealing with this intensely difficult problem and every nation should act within the framework of the decisions and resolutions issued by the UN.
Finally, the plight of Iraq's population has highlighted the difficulty of dealing with a regime which is as ruthless as it is reckless. Since the Gulf War in 1991 the EC has been the major donor of humanitarian aid to Iraq. We have contributed over €270m. Over the last three years we have provided assistance of some €10m annually. In 2002 we shall provide around €13m. Yet the impact of our help is reduced by the limitations placed upon it by Saddam Hussein's regime.
That is why we strongly welcomed UNSC resolution 1409 last May which introduced so-called "smart sanctions" intended to limit Saddam Hussein's ability to develop weapons of mass destruction while limiting also his ability to inflict hardship on his own population.
Meeting at Elsinore last weekend Europe's Foreign Ministers called for full implementation of the UN resolutions and a resumption of inspections without excuses, without prevarication, without "ifs" and buts. That is obviously the best way forward.
I hope that as the debate on how to achieve these shared objections continues in the coming weeks it will shed light as well as generate heat. We need to consider how we can best limit the production and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We have to look at how we can continue successfully the international campaign against terrorism on as broad a front as possible. We have to promote the end of violence in the Middle East, the restoration of a peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel. We have to prevent a gulf opening up between the democracies of Europe and North America and the Islamic World. We have to encourage the development of participative democracy, civil society and the rule of law in all countries, including those which comprise the Arab World. We have to think constructively about what can and should justify intervention by the international community in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. We have to think equally constructively about whether the global rule book that has by and large governed our affairs for the last 50 years is still valid or whether it requires some changes, and how it can be refined and strengthened. It is important that Europe's voice should be heard on all these matters.
It is perhaps ironic that debate on these far-reaching issues at the beginning of a new century is triggered by the question of how we deal with a dictator whose rule exemplifies much of what was worst in the last century. I just wish I was as certain about some of the answers as are those whose voices are currently raised so loud.
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