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Letters to the Security Council

[JURIST] On Tuesday the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [official website] released, via ReliefWeb, the texts of two recent letters from the United States and Iraq to the UN Security Council.

On March 20, US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte officially informed the President of the Security Council of the outbreak of war in these terms:

Coalition forces have commenced military operations in Iraq. These operations are necessary in view of Iraq's continued material breaches of its disarmament obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1441 (2002). The operations are substantial and will secure compliance with those obligations. In carrying out these operations, our forces will take all reasonable precautions to avoid civilian casualties.

The actions being taken are authorized under existing Council resolutions, including its resolutions 678 (1990) and 687 (1991). Resolution 687 (1991) imposed a series of obligations on Iraq, including, most importantly, extensive disarmament obligations, that were conditions of the ceasefire established under it. It has been long recognized and understood that a material breach of these obligations removes the basis of the ceasefire and revives the authority to use force under resolution 678 (1990). This has been the basis for coalition use of force in the past and has been accepted by the Council, as evidenced, for example, by the Secretary-General's public announcement in January 1993 following Iraq's material breach of resolution 687 (1991) that coalition forces had received a mandate from the Council to use force according to resolution 678 (1990).

Iraq continues to be in material breach of its disarmament obligations under resolution 687 (1991), as the Council affirmed in its resolution 1441 (2002). Acting under the authority of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Council unanimously decided that Iraq has been and remained in material breach of its obligations and recalled its repeated warnings to Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations. The resolution then provided Iraq a "final opportunity" to comply, but stated specifically that violations by Iraq of its obligations under resolution 1441 (2002) to present a currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its weapons of mass destruction programmes and to comply with and cooperate fully in the implementation of the resolution would constitute a further material breach.

The Government of Iraq decided not to avail itself of its final opportunity under resolution 1441 (2002) and has clearly committed additional violations. In view of Iraq's material breaches, the basis for the ceasefire has been removed and use of force is authorized under resolution 678 (1990).

Iraq repeatedly has refused, over a protracted period of time, to respond to diplomatic overtures, economic sanctions and other peaceful means, designed to help bring about Iraqi compliance with its obligations to disarm and to permit full inspection of its weapons of mass destruction and related programmes. The actions that coalition forces are undertaking are an appropriate response. They are necessary steps to defend the United States and the international community from the threat posed by Iraq and to restore international peace and security in the area. Further delay would simply allow Iraq to continue its unlawful and threatening conduct.

It is the Government of Iraq that bears full responsibility for the serious consequences of its defiance of the Council's decisions.
On March 21, Iraq's UN Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri transmitted to the Security Council a letter from Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yasin Ramadan accusing the UN of yielding to US-UK pressure in withdrawing UN personnel from Iraq, and rejecting proposed changes to the UN Oil-for-Food program:
Sixteen March 2003 was a memorable day in the history of the United Nations Security Council, for on that day the overwhelming majority of the members of the Security Council, supported by the entire international community, declared that they would not permit the adoption of the aggressive American-British war draft in the Security Council. Thus the United States met with a resounding failure in its attempt to obtain international cover for the aggression it was plotting against Iraq and the region.

To offset its ignominious defeat, the United States exerted pressure on the United Nations Secretariat to implement some of the pages of its evil and hostile imperialist war plan. Most unfortunately it succeeded in that effort, inasmuch as on 17 March 2003 the Secretariat decided to withdraw all international staff working in Iraq, in a disgraceful shirking of the responsibilities of the United Nations in four of its most important areas of work, namely disarmament, peacekeeping, humanitarian work and development. Indeed, the withdrawal of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) has enabled the United States of America and the United Kingdom to use the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait as a corridor for their shock troops. The withdrawal of the staff of the oil-for-food programme has put an end to the supplying of the basic humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. The withdrawal of the staff of the United Nations specialized agencies has terminated the activities of those health and development agencies in Iraq. The withdrawal of the inspectors of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) brought to a standstill the work of those two organizations, which is fundamental not only for verifying completely that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction but also for satisfying the remaining requirements of the Security Council resolutions connected with the completion of the inspection operations, above all the lifting of the unjust sanctions imposed on Iraq.

It is clear to the international community that the withdrawal of United Nations staff was done by the Secretariat in compliance with the hostile American-British scheme, which is in violation of international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and the Security Council resolutions on Iraq and devoid of any legal or moral justification. It was also done in violation of the mechanisms in place and without the approval of the Security Council, which had created all those activities.
Read the full text of Iraq's letter to the President of the Security Council.

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