The New York Times
October 17, 2002, Thursday, Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section A; Page 33; Column 1; Editorial Desk
HEADLINE: Iraq States Its Case
BYLINE: By Mohammed Aldouri; Mohammed Aldouri is the Iraqi ambassador to
the United Nations.
After so many years of fear from war, the threat of war and suffering, the people of Iraq and their government in Baghdad are eager for peace. We have no intention of attacking anyone, now or in the future, with weapons of any kind. If we are attacked, we will surely defend ourselves with all means possible. But bear in mind that we have no nuclear or biological or chemical weapons, and we have no intention of acquiring them.
We are not asking the people of the United States or of any member state of the United Nations to trust in our word, but to send the weapons inspectors to our country to look wherever they wish unconditionally. This means unconditional access anywhere, including presidential sites in accordance with a 1998 signed agreement between Iraq and the United Nations -- an agreement that ensures respect for Iraq's sovereignty and allows for transparency in the work of the inspectors. We could never make this claim with such openness if we did not ourselves know there is nothing to be found. Still, we continue to read statements by officials of the United States and the United Kingdom that it is not enough that Hans Blix, head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and his team of inspectors have unconditional access. They say this is because the Iraqi government may be hiding weapons that will not be found, or is moving weapons from place to place, or is developing new weapons in roving vans or in underground locations.
The United Nations officials with whom our government has worked on these matters know that these concerns have no foundation. In December 1998, when the United Nations weapons inspection team left Iraq on the orders of Richard Butler, the chief United Nations arms inspector at the time, it had exhausted all possibilities after seven years of repeatedly examining all possible sites; only small discrepancies existed.
It is now widely conceded that Iraq possesses no nuclear weapons and that we could not develop them without building facilities that could be spotted by satellite. Since 1999, we have allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit Iraq. If it wishes, it can inspect any building anywhere. The agency's inspectors will find nothing untoward. Scott Ritter, who led many United Nations inspections, has said that he questions whether Iraq possesses biological weapons. Mr. Ritter also has been on CNN in recent months explaining that his inspection team destroyed plants that could produce chemical weapons. If these plants were reconstructed, Mr. Blix and his team would quickly find them out. Building such weapons costs billions of dollars and requires enormous facilities and huge power sources. The idea that such projects could be moved around in trucks or stashed away in presidential palaces stretches the bounds of imagination.
It is my belief that the American people are not aware of this history because, in my opinion and the opinion of my government, no American political figure has been seriously interested in discussing these matters with our government. The United Nations was created in 1945 to provide a forum for nations in conflict to come together to work out their disagreements. It was designed expressly for the purpose of making the use of force an absolute last resort.
For more than 11 years, the people of Iraq have suffered under United Nations economic sanctions, which have been kept in place largely by American influence. According to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, these sanctions have caused the death of more than 1.7 million of our citizens. The embargo has been so severe that we have been prevented from importing chemicals needed for our sewage, water and sanitation facilities.
At the same time, the last three American presidents have stated that these sanctions could not be lifted as long as our president, Saddam Hussein, remains the nation's leader.
Iraq is not a threat to its neighbors. It certainly is not a threat to the United States or any of its interests in the Middle East. Once the United Nations inspection team comes back into my country and gets up to speed, I am confident that it will certify that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction -- be they chemical, biological or nuclear. Such certification, we hope, will remove the shadow of war and help restore peace between