March 28, 2003
UNITED NATIONS -- The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations walked out of a debate on the Iraqi war Thursday after Iraq's ambassador accused Washington of planning the military assault for years, falsely believing Iraqi people would welcome invading troops with "hugs and flowers."
After he left, Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri also accused the United States and allies Britain and Australia of trying to exterminate the Iraqi people.
"I did sit through quite a long part of what he had to say, but I think that I'd heard enough," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said outside the Security Council chamber, adding that he rejected the allegations.
The walkout was a dramatic finale to the first open meeting of the bitterly divided council since U.S. and British forces launched their attack last week.
Despite the discord, representatives of the 15 council members managed to agree on a draft resolution allowing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to take control of some aspects of the oil-for-food humanitarian program for 45 days. The council is to vote on the resolution today, said Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger.
The program had provided food to 60 percent of Iraq's 22-million people but was halted last week before war erupted.
Al-Douri was the last of more than 80 speakers during the two-day session. About a dozen countries not on the council supported the U.S. position, but the vast majority opposed the war and expressed regret Iraq could not be disarmed peacefully.
Negroponte rejected charges that the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq was illegal and unilateral, saying Iraq brought the war on by not complying with U.N. resolutions that ended the 1991 Gulf War.
But Al-Douri charged the United States had arranged for contracts to rebuild Iraq in 1997, six years before the war, and had even started carving up Iraq before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.
U.S. officials said Al-Douri's statement was the first public admission that Iraq had invaded Kuwait.
The Iraqi ambassador noted that hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers had crossed the Atlantic to wage war and "control the region" even though Iraq has "no weapons of mass destruction" and had no part in the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The warning I would like to make to the members of the august council is that the United States and the British were hoodwinked when they were told that the Iraqi people would receive them with flowers and hugs and ululations, and the children and the mothers will rejoice at the coming of the U.S. forces," he said.
At that point, Negroponte got up from his seat around the horseshoe-shaped table and walked out.
Al-Douri went on to say that "the Iraqi army up until now has not confronted the United States forces" -- just "the Iraqi people, the women, the children, the peasants."
Almost sputtering, he said the United States was now using the humanitarian issue to hide its "criminal aggression."
The Iraqi envoy urged the Security Council to adopt a resolution to halt the war, saying ending the conflict was more important than humanitarian aid.
"Britain and the United States and Australia are about to start a real war of extermination that will kill everything and destroy everything," Al-Douri said. "And then their regret will be of no use."
While the council was meeting, experts worked on the text of an oil-for-food resolution.
Russia and Syria insisted the resolution must not sanction the war, prejudge a change in Iraq's leadership, or give the United States control over the program's bank account, which contains billions of dollars.