| Pervez Musharraf addresses the 57th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. (Reuters)
United Nations, Sept. 12 (Reuters): President George W. Bush today issued a ringing challenge to the UN on Iraq, saying if the world body did not force President Saddam Hussein to disarm and stop backing terrorism then “action will be unavoidable.”
But UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, speaking minutes before Bush, said only the UN could authorise military force in cases that go beyond straightforward self-defence and that multilateral action was essential.
“The Security Council resolutions will be enforced — the just demands of peace and security will be met — or action will be unavoidable,” Bush declared. “And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.”
But foreign states welcomed Bush’s commitment to pursue diplomatic pressure at this stage, including backing a new UN resolution. US allies and other world leaders, as well as many members of the US Congress, have counseled this course. Bush issued a fierce indictment of Saddam, saying he posed a “grave and gathering danger” after engaging in a “decade of defiance” of post-Gulf War UN demands by developing weapons of mass destruction.
Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri, who was in the UN General Assembly hall when Bush spoke, said the US had repeatedly failed to find any evidence that Iraq was involved in terrorism.
Instead Bush delivered the “longest series of fabrications that has ever been told by a leader of a nation,” Aldouri told reporters. “I only can say that President Bush’s speech had no credibility at all.”
Bush’s speech coincided with an increased beat of US war drums, including the disclosure that a major part of the US military command overseeing operations in West Asia would, at least temporarily, be moved from the US to the Gulf.
The US is demanding a return of unrestricted UN inspections of Iraq's suspected weapons programmes, which Saddam agreed to after his defeat in the 1991 Gulf War but which were abandoned in 1998 after hindrance by Iraq.
While he joined Bush in demanding Iraq comply with all resolutions, Annan questioned Bush’s right to go to war.
Any state, if attacked, retained the right of self-defense, he said.
“But beyond that, when States decide to use force, to deal with broader threats to international peace and security there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the UN,” he added.
Insisting that Iraq’s refusal to abide by previous resolutions threatened the authority of the UN, Bush said the US would work with other members of the UN Security Council on a new resolution.
“What was positive in his speech is that future action is rooted in the United Nations,” Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said.