John DauthSecurity Council Open Debate on Iraq: Australian Statement

Tuesday 11 March 2003, New York

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

Mr President

We are at a historic moment for the Council and for international security. The architecture of international peace and security, in which we have invested so much over the past fifty years, hangs in the balance. The council's decisions could either strengthen this architecture or gravely undermine it. Members of this body face a weighty responsibility to ensure both the disarmament of Iraq and the continuing relevance of the Security Council in global affairs.

Four months after the adoption of resolution 1441, Australia does not believe that Iraq has shown a change of heart that will lead to its full and verifiable disarmament. In his report to this body on 7 March, Dr Blix was unable to state that Iraq has taken the fundamental decision to disarm. In fact, no one, including UN weapons inspectors, has been able to describe Iraq's cooperation as immediate, unconditional and active.

We believe that Iraq has, therefore, fallen short of what UNSCR 1441 required it to do. Its actions so far do not permit any other conclusion. The key question for this Council, as the primary multilateral instrument of international peace and security, is what will it do about this situation.

Will it accept the small, belated steps taken by Iraq as adequate? We believe it should not. The commencement of the destruction of al-Samoud II missiles is not a reason to relinquish the pressure on Iraq to disarm. Developing missiles with a range beyond 150km is something Iraq should never have done in the first place: it was expressly forbidden by this very body.

Iraq's belated discoveries of the R400 bombs raise questions about why it was suddenly able to find weapons. And other developments, such as the handing over of some documents, are redolent of Iraq's tired tactic of seeking to pacify the international community, rather than signalling the beginning of true cooperation.

These reluctant offerings were only brought about through the enormous pressure on Iraq created by the massing of military forces in the region. Even this minimum cooperation would stop if the pressure was removed. We have seen this pattern before, and no doubt will see it again unless the Security Council is united and acts decisively.

The point is that the international community did not ask that Iraq should put on a display of piecemeal cooperation. The international community has demanded Iraq's unconditional disarmament, verified by inspectors.

Very few outstanding disarmament questions have been resolved and many remain. We still do not know what Iraq has done with 6,500 chemical munitions, with a potential agent content of 1000 tonnes of chemical agent; 8,500 litres of anthrax; 650 kg of bacterial growth media - which could be used to make 5000 litres of anthrax; 360 tonnes of bulk chemical agent; 1.5 tonnes of VX and 3000 tonnes of precursor chemicals.

Without full Iraqi cooperation none of these and other questions will be adequately resolved. The inspectors will never be able to do their job properly. It is time that all the members of the Security Council acknowledge this. Giving inspectors more time, or giving them additional capabilities, will mean nothing unless Iraq genuinely cooperates.

Mr President

We all have a fundamental interest in strengthening the architecture of international security. We want to see the Security Council reinvigorated - not sidelined - by the situation it faces. Avoiding a decision or delaying a decision will undermine this objective.

The Security Council must recognise that threats to international security have changed. It must deal with the borderless scourge of international terrorism and risk of illicit traffic in prohibited and dual-use items. The threat of terrorism is made worse by the possibility that terrorists could get hold of chemical and biological weapons. For this reason, it is urgent that the Security Council confront this risk by disarming nations that build those weapons and defy international non-proliferation norms. Failure to do so will increase both the immediate threat and set a precedent that we will all come to regret.

Mr President

Creating a more secure world and underpinning our system of non-proliferation requires resolve. The Security Council must mean what it says and countries must live up to their obligations. This Council expressed its resolve when - in its 18th resolution on the issue - it decided to give Iraq one last chance in resolution 1441. Iraq has failed to take the chance.

But even now, the best and perhaps last hope of achieving a peaceful solution is for the Security Council to send a clear message to Iraq through a new resolution that it must disarm fully.

Mr President

In September last year the Secretary General addressed the General Assembly urging Iraq to comply with its obligations and stressing that if its defiance continued, the Security Council must face its responsibilities. Six months have gone by. Iraq has not complied with its obligations. Difficult though it is, it is time for the Council to face its responsibilities.