Iraq to dominate debate at UN

Published September 9, 2002

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 8: Iraq will dominate the United Nations General Assembly meeting when it convenes on Thursday but diplomats and leaders hope that other world issues, including peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan, would not be ignored.

US President Bush, who will the first speaker at the UNGA session, will lay out his goal of ousting Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Mr Bush is expected to tell the world leaders that if Baghdad does not agree to allow UN weapons inspectors in, the United States would launch a unilateral strike against Iraq even without a mandate from the UN Security Council.

It was at the Bush administration’s request that the UN scheduled the start of the annual debate in the General Assembly for Sept 12 so that leaders can come to New York to mark the first anniversary of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks.

The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said on Friday that he was looking forward to a speech by US President George Bush to the UN General Assembly.

“I think we can all look forward to hearing what he is going to say,” Annan told reporters in Paris following a meeting he had with French President Jacques Chirac.

In his comments to reporters, Annan said Chirac had indicated that it would be unwise to attack Iraq now, and would raise international tensions, and added that President Bush and his team would bear that in mind.

“I was encouraged yesterday when he said that he will consult the international community,” Mr Annan said. “I hope that will also include the Security Council, which is at the Centre of that community.” Asked if the UN should set a deadline for the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq, he replied: “I think this is something the Security Council will have to decide.”

According to several US officials, the president may propose a Security Council resolution that would set a deadline for Iraq to open its weapons sites to unfettered inspection.

The council has been unanimous in demanding the return of inspectors after nearly four years, but Russia and China, which have close ties with Iraq, oppose any military action.

“Our position is quite clear,” said Russia’s UN ambassador Serge Lavrov. “We would like to take all necessary political and diplomatic measures to resolve this issue.” Norway’s UN envoy Ole Peter Kolby, also a council member, told Associated Press “everybody appreciates that president Bush is coming here.”

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