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2/23/03 - E-U TELLS IRAQ TO DISARM - 2003-02-24

Leaders of the fifteen European Union countries are demanding that Iraq get rid of its weapons of mass destruction and cooperate “immediately and fully” with United Nations weapons inspectors. In a statement also endorsed by thirteen future E-U countries, the leaders said the Saddam Hussein “regime alone will be responsible for the consequences if it continues to flout the will of the international community and does not take this last chance.”

Iraq was given its “last chance” in U-N Security Council resolution fourteen-forty-one, unanimously adopted in November. The U-N has already found Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations, stretching back over twelve years and sixteen previous resolutions. As in the past, resolution fourteen-forty-one puts the burden on the Iraqi regime to prove that it has eliminated all programs for chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. But the resolution also makes it clear that the Iraqi regime will face “serious consequences” if it does not comply.

So far, Iraq has not complied. And time is running out. The only question is how much longer the world should wait before taking action to enforce the U-N demand.

By going through the Security Council, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair pointed out, leaders “gave the U-N an extraordinary opportunity and a heavy responsibility. . .to show that we can meet the menace to our world. . .collectively.”

“The League of Nations,” said Mr. Blair, “also had that opportunity and responsibility back in the 1930s. In the early days of the fascist menace, it had the duty to protect Abyssinia [now known as Ethiopia] from invasion. But when it came to a decision to enforce that guarantee, the horror of war deterred it. We know the rest. The menace grew; the League of Nations collapsed; [the Second World] war came.”

Like President George W. Bush and other leaders, Prime Minister Blair continues to express the hope that Iraq can be disarmed peacefully. “But if we show weakness now,” said Mr. Blair, “if we allow the plea for more time to become just an excuse for prevarication until the moment for action passes, then it will not only be Saddam who is repeating history. The menace, and not just from Saddam, will grow; the authority of the U-N will be lost; and the conflict when it comes will be more bloody.”