The deputy prime minister of Iraq has urged world leaders to help avert potential U.S. military action against his country. He made the comments at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz urged delegates at the summit to side with Iraq in opposing any potential unilateral action against his country by the United States.
Mr. Aziz made his plea in the context of the summit, which focuses on fighting poverty, while saving the planet.
He said the 1991 Gulf War decimated the Iraqi environment. And he said the economic embargo that continues to this day, has made it impossible for the country to develop.
He says the United States is threatening to launch a large-scale aggression against Iraq that would bring about more devastation and subsequently lead to further catastrophes on the environment.
He says that would impede the development the Iraqi citizens' need. And so, he says, the international community is required to stand against what he calls this new aggression and seek the lifting of what he called the unjust embargo imposed on Iraq.
Mr. Aziz received unexpected backing from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa. He spoke to reporters earlier in the day.
"We are really appalled by any country," Mr. Mandela said. "Whether it is a superpower or a small country, that goes outside the United Nations and attacks independent countries."
Mr. Mandela said he has spoken by telephone with U.S.Secretary of State Colin Powell, and to President Bush's father. He said he asked former President George Bush to raise the issue with his son.
The Bush administration has said it wants a regime change in Iraq. U.S. officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, say Iraq is still producing weapons of mass destruction, and they believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein poses a grave threat to the United States and its' allies.
Iraqi officials have traveled the globe in recent weeks, trying to get world leaders to speak out against any unilateral military action against Iraq.