© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 2002
UNITED NATIONS -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Wednesday that launching a military campaign against Iraq without the support of the United Nations would be a grave mistake and a blow to international law, striking a defiant pose against the Bush administration on the eve of President Bush's address to the U.N. General Assembly.
Aides said Bush plans to call for international action to topple Saddam Hussein, but U.S. officials have made clear that the United States is prepared to fight the Iraqi president on its own even as they continue to debate how long they will wait to seek U.N. support. In his remarks, which are scheduled to be delivered shortly before Bush speaks, Annan is unequivocal that he -- along with a majority of U.N. member states -- favors a multilateral solution.
"Even the most powerful countries know that they need to work with others, in multilateral institutions, to achieve their aims," Annan said in the advance text of his remarks, which his office took the unusual step of making public Wednesday. "Every government that is committed to the rule of law at home must be committed also to the rule of law abroad.
"No country," Annan said, "should reject cooperation as a simple matter of political convenience."
The secretary-general also indicated that time was running short for Iraq to admit weapons inspectors and dismantle any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
"The leadership of Iraq continues to defy mandatory resolutions adopted by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter," which allows the use of military force, he said.
Three rounds of U.N.-Iraq talks since March have failed to get Iraq to agree to the return of inspectors, who left in December 1998 ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes to punish Hussein's government for not cooperating with inspections. Iraq said it wants to continue the dialogue, but with a broad agenda on outstanding issues which Annan has rejected.
"I appeal to all who have influence with Iraq's leaders to impress on them the vital importance of accepting the weapons inspections," Annan said. "This is the indispensable first step toward assuring the world that all Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have indeed been eliminated, and -- let me stress -- toward the suspension and eventual ending of the sanctions that are causing so many hardships for the Iraqi people."
After Annan's address, Bush will set forth his convictions about the Iraqi threat and call on the United Nations to compel Hussein to comply with more than a decade of disarmament demands. Bush does not intend to detail a specific course of action or set a deadline, U.S. officials said, but will remind the world audience of the Iraqi leader's defiance and argue that there can be no effective compliance -- or security in the Middle East -- as long as he remains in power.
Bush also will argue that his duty is to defend the United States against terrorist threats. After outlining the case, Bush and his administration's senior foreign policy officials will embark on a series of diplomatic appeals in hopes of building a consensus in the U.N. Security Council for action.
Although the administration has long been divided about the wisdom of seeking formal U.N. support to unseat Hussein, Bush declared last week that he would pursue congressional approval to take action against Iraq and would consult with the United Nations. No decisions have been made about the form an anti-Iraq resolution at the U.N. might take.
One idea under discussion within the administration is a single resolution that would set a deadline for Hussein to admit the U.N. weapons inspectors he rejected in 1998 and to grant them free access to search for evidence of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons production. The resolution would authorize military action against the Iraqi leader if he failed to comply.
Another approach, first suggested publicly by French President Jacques Chirac, would be a two-stage process that began with a resolution ordering Iraq to admit the inspectors. The Security Council would consider a response, including possible multilateral military action, to force inspections. This approach is favored by governments unpersuaded that the Iraqi leader's behavior merits his forcible ouster.
In another development, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan said that an American decision to attack Iraq would inflame Islamic extremism in his country and across the region and that therefore "we would not like to be involved in it."