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The Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations Muhammad al-Duri has said that the UN will be "declared dead" shortly. In an interview with Egyptian radio, he said that the secretary-general was not capable of resisting pressure from Britain and the US, and added that Britain had gulled other members of the Security Council into voting on a new resolution on the oil-for-food programme in Iraq.
He questioned the priorities of Security Council members, saying that, rather than focusing on humanitarian issues, they should be concentrating on stopping the war. He also noted a shift in the French position which he said was to "appease" the United States. The following is the text of a recorded telephone interview with the Iraqi representative at the United Nations, Al-Duri, in New York by Fayiz al-Miliji in Cairo, broadcast by Egyptian radio on 30 March; subheadings inserted editorially:
Iraq's representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Muhammad al-Duri. We have all followed the UN Security Council's adoption of a resolution to resume the oil-for-food programme for 45 days under the supervision of the UN secretary-general. The resolution also stipulated other things but the Iraqi position rejected this resolution. First we pause with your excellency to discuss the situation in the UN Security Council.
In the name of God, the most Merciful, most Compassionate. This issue dates back to the first day of the war, or one day before the war when UN Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan suspended the oil-for-food programme and withdrew the UN officials. I do not think this was done at the initiative of Mr Kofi Annan. It was instigated by the United States and Britain. He also had to pull out UNIKOM United Nations Iraq -Kuwait Observation Mission troops from the Iraq -Kuwait border under this pressure. So, the situation is firmly related to the war, not to the programme. However, after the United States failed to pass a resolution authorizing war at the Security Council and went to war by itself, it wanted to find another way out. I believe this is a British view because the British are known for their cunning tricks in this regard. They are looking for a way to secure a comprehensive position by the Security Council. They found that the best way to unify the council is to focus on the humanitarian crisis, because nobody can disregard or impede humanitarian issues. Therefore, this was the ideal way of getting to the Security Council and they managed to do so and get what they wanted with some minor adjustments. So the other members of the Security Council without exception fell into the trap, but each of those countries has its own objectives and methods. For instance, Latin American states - changes thought or let us say the so-called six undecided states, which hesitated about supporting the previous draft resolutions which aimed at authorizing war. Therefore, they can only adopt a different position today in order to balance their stances.
France backtracked on its original position when the war began. It seems now to be looking for something through this settlement in order to try to appease the United States and so on. Russia has a different objective and Syria cannot stand alone. Perhaps this Syrian position will achieve some national interest, but at least some commodities can come through Syria because it is closer to Iraq, in light of the deteriorating situation in the south.
Excuse me Dr Al-Duri, but you hardly mentioned the Russian position.
No, I told you from the start that all those countries cannot afford to adopt a negative position on a humanitarian issue that they consider inevitable. However, they should have requested that Iraq be a party to this issue because, after all, Iraq is the government that controls Iraq and the only occupied areas are in the desert. They coalition forces have merely encircled cities such as Basra.
Kofi Annan unable to "face up to US and British pressure"
With respect to this resolution, your main reservations are about disregarding the Iraqi government, but do you have other reservations?
There are other reservations. It is not just that. There will be Iraqi money that Iraq should decide how to spend. Now this power rests with the secretary-general. I told you that granting the secretary-general this authority does not make us comfortable because the secretary-general cannot face up to US and British pressure if those countries want to use Iraqi money one way or another. So, there are several points or question marks that nobody can answer except the United States and Britain who drafted this resolution in a way that provides methods and points which enable them to realize their interests above anything else.
We do not believe that all this has been done to help the Iraqi people. Why? Because if the council had been worried about the interests of the Iraqi people, it would have discussed the issue of war. It would not have put the horse before the cart. The humanitarian issue is a by-product of war. So, they should stop the war and then the entire issue will not be unimportant and insignificant. However, instead of doing this - because they cannot stop the war and all those countries combined cannot stop those two countries, the United States and Britain - they found another way of continuing the dialogue in a bid to realize their interests with the United States.
Dr Muhammad al-Duri, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, you mean that the Security Council ignored the main issue, which is war, and focused on a secondary issue, which oil-for-food as a relief aid programme. You have many reservations about this issue. The question now is: Has the role of the UN Security Council ended or will the main issue - stopping the war - be discussed?
I believe that the Security Council has been out of order since the United States and Britain circumvented it -
Since they circumvented it?
Since they circumvented it by going to war without obtaining a resolution that authorizes them to use force against Iraq. Ever since then, the Security Council and the United Nations have been out of order. They are now talking about unimportant issues. What I wanted to say was that the oil-for- food programme which was the focus of a Security Council resolution does not have any practical significance. Some officials in charge of the oil-for- food programme have made remarks indicating that this issue will not be implemented due to many physical impossibilities. Therefore, it was only adopted to reunite the council and take advantage of the Security Council's agreement on this issue. However, the United States does not listen to or care about the actual Iraqi question or anything related to this. It continues to follow the road it has chosen for itself. So, the Security Council is over, and, through it, the United Nations and the existing world order are being jeopardized. I believe that the United Nations will be declared dead shortly.
"Shift" in French position
Dr Al-Duri, you mentioned France's current position at the Security Council. A meeting was held on the sidelines of the EU summit between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac. Do you think that the solid French position, which opposed a resolution authorizing war, has somewhat weakened?
I believe that whoever listened to France's permanent member at the United Nations during the last meeting of the Security Council, which dealt with the Iraqi issue, not the humanitarian programme, could clearly sense a shift in the French position. The key features of this position are not yet clear. We heard French statements opposing war, but when we heard what the French representative said here when we discussed with him some of the ideas that the Arab group wanted to include in a resolution to be submitted to the Security Council, his position was quite clear and completely negative. He did not even want to discuss this issue or come close to it. His main concern was the humanitarian programme. Thus, we sensed the shift. Everybody, not just me, sensed this shift. On the other hand, the German and Russian positions are still based on the essential firm principles.
Al-Miliji Dr Muhammad al-Duri, before concluding this interview, it is obvious that the war will be long, particularly in view of the courageous and wonderful Iraqi resistance, which continues to repel invading forces. The Security Council, the United Nations and the UN General Assembly, which is an important branch of the international organization - changes thought . We cannot imagine that the United Nations and all its organizations will not have a role to play under the current circumstances, especially if the war is long and courageous resistance against the aggression continues. How do you view the overall picture?
Actually, I cannot rely on the United Nations. I am here and I am beginning to know it well, know its secrets, what goes on behind the scenes, the nature of such dialogues and the interests behind the dialogues. Therefore, I cannot rely much on it. If I had any aspiration, it would be - changes thought . I have often said through your Voice of the Arabs Radio that only the Arabs could stop the war, but although they have not been able to stop it, I still have hope - because of those massive anti- war demonstrations which expressed Arab sentiments - that Arab states can still do something to stop this war. If they cannot stop this war, I hope they will lend a helping hand to Iraq - both financial and moral support. I believe that Arabs and Iraqis could resist the attack together. Even if the Arabs cannot do anything, the Iraqis, as you said, will be up to the challenge, God willing, and will make the Arabs feel proud when they take the initiative and achieve victory, God willing.
Dr Al-Duri, from New York, thank you very much.
You are welcome.
Copyright Voice of the Arabs, Cairo and BBC 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .