Security Council members insist they still have a role

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2003

UNITED NATIONS (KRT) - In a moment rich with irony, members of the United Nations Security Council said Wednesday that Iraq does not present an imminent threat and declared that it could be disarmed by peaceful methods.

The assertions, made by foreign ministers and ambassadors, were overshadowed by recognition of the council’s impotence in light of the United States’ decision this week to quit seeking U.N. approval to wage war.

In a place where urgent passions raged over the previous six months, creating a sense that the United Nations might indeed be the forum its founders had envisioned - where matters of war, peace and global order would be decided - Wednesday’s debate had the air of old soldiers chewing over battles long lost.

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The diplomats’ frustration that events had passed from their hands was evident.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov complained that if there were "indisputable facts" that Iraq directly threatens U.S. security, "then Russia without any hesitation would be prepared to use all the means available

to eliminate such a threat. However, the Security Council today is not in possession of such facts."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer insisted again that his country "emphatically rejects the impending war" and questioned whether Iraq’s sluggish cooperation with U.N. arms inspectors could "seriously be regarded as grounds for war."

But, aware that war is seemingly inevitable, diplomats lamented their failure to avert it, then turned their attention to the Security Council’s future, particularly its role in meeting humanitarian and reconstruction needs after the war.

"We are meeting here today, a few hours before the guns are fired, to exchange our convictions again," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, "but also to outline together the paths that must allow us to recover the spirit of unity."

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte and British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said their governments have set aside millions of dollars for immediate food and medical relief and

said they will soon present ideas on how to use money from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program to meet humanitarian needs.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told the council that he, too, would soon present specific proposals for addressing the humanitarian emergency to "mitigate this imminent