Ref. :  000006070
Date :  2003-03-10
Language :  English
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Secretary-General's press conference (unofficial transcript)

The Hague, Netherlands, 10 March 2003

Author :  ONU / UN

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I know many of you would like to hear how the Cyprus talks are going. You will forgive me if I don't say anything just now, since the talks are still continuing. I hope to have something to tell you later in the afternoon.

One of the difficulties we have had to face, in this latest phase of the search for a Cyprus settlement, is that our work has been overshadowed by the atmosphere of crisis and great anxiety that is affecting the whole world. The question of Iraq's disarmament has brought the international community to a dangerous point of division and discord. I'm sure you will understand if I devote the remainder of my remarks to that issue.

Let me start by repeating something which must be obvious: all peoples today feel the threat of weapons of mass destruction. It is an issue of the utmost gravity – by no means confined to Iraq. The whole international community needs to act together to curb the proliferation of these terrible weapons, wherever it is happening.

The determination of the Security Council to disarm Iraq of such weapons is the most urgent issue – because Iraq has actually used such weapons in the past, and because it has twice committed aggression against its neighbours. That is why the Security Council, ever since 1991, has passed successive resolutions requiring Iraq to disarm. On this critical question, there are no divisions, no grounds for doubt, dispute or delay.

All around the globe, people want to see this crisis resolved peacefully. There is widespread concern about the long-term consequences of war in Iraq for the fight against terrorism; for the Middle East peace process; and for the world's ability to address common concerns in the future if deep divisions are sowed today between nations and between peoples of different religions.

Indeed, one must have no illusions about what war means. In certain circumstances the use of force may be necessary to secure a lasting peace. But the reality is that it would cause great human suffering, whether it is long or short; that it may lead to regional instability and economic crises; and it can – as it often has before – lead to unintended consequences producing new threats and new dangers.

War must always be a last resort – arrived at only if and when every reasonable avenue of achieving Iraq's disarmament by peaceful means has been exhausted. The United Nations – founded to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war – has a duty to search till the very end for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The members of the Security Council now face a great choice. If they fail to agree on a common position, and action is taken without the authority of the Security Council, the legitimacy and support for any such action will be seriously impaired. If, on the other hand, they can come together, even at this late hour, to address this threat in a united manner and ensure compliance with their previous resolutions, then the Council's authority will be enhanced, and the world will be a safer place.

Indeed, Iraq does not exist in a vacuum. What happens there will have profound implications – for better or worse – for other issues of great importance to the surrounding region, and to the world. The broader the consensus on Iraq, the better the chance that we can come together again and deal effectively with other burning conflicts in the world, starting with the one between Israelis and Palestinians. Only a just resolution of that conflict can bring real hope of lasting stability in the region.

Even beyond the Middle East, the success or failure of the international community in dealing with Iraq will crucially affect its ability to deal with the serious situation developing on the Korean Peninsula – not to mention the conflicts which are causing such terrible suffering in Africa, and setting back the prospects for stability and development, from Côte d'Ivoire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And there are many other scourges that the world has to face, besides war. Whether they are protecting themselves against terrorism or struggling against the grim triad of poverty, ignorance and disease, States need to work together, and they can do so through the United Nations. However this conflict is resolved, the United Nations will remain as important as it is today.

We have seen in recent months what an immense significance States and peoples around the world attach to the legitimacy provided by the United Nations Security Council, and by the United Nations, as the common framework for securing the peace. As they approach their grave decision, I must solemnly urge all members of the Security Council to keep this in mind, and to be worthy of the trust in them that the world's peoples have shown.

Thank you very much.

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