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Non-Security Council Members Voice Opposition to US Intervention in Iraq - 2003-02-20

During a second day of debate at the United Nations, non-Security Council members had a chance to express their views on disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Some of the countries in Iraq's neighborhood warn that war with Iraq could inflame the entire region.

The majority of the non-Security Council members participating in the U.N. debate expressed their opposition to military force in favor of intensifying weapons inspections and increasing diplomatic pressure to disarm Iraq.

A main launchpad for the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Iraq, Saudi Arabia, told the Security Council that war could have destructive humanitarian, economic, and political consequences for the entire region. The Saudi Arabia's U.N. ambassador, Fawzi Shobokshi, warned:

"The omens of terrifying conflagrations and destruction are massing on the horizons. We are standing on the threshold of overwhelming disaster despite all the good intentions and genuine efforts by peace-loving states and peoples seeking peaceful solution to the Iraq issue," he said.

Nearly all the speakers from Arab countries called on Saddam Hussein to comply with inspectors. They also called on Israel to disarm its weapons of weapons of mass destruction.

Canada, which has said it will not participate in a U.S. led war without U.N. approval, suggested that weapons inspectors, who reported their findings to the Council last week, clearly present the key remaining shortfalls in the disarmament process.

British ambassador to the United Nations, Jeremy Greenstock, called the session "a good and predictable debate."

But he said a new resolution expected to be introduced by the Bush administration and backed by his own government will focus the debate on forcing Iraq to disarm. He indicated the draft is likely to include a deadline for Iraq to disarm.

"It will be a debate about a specific proposition and it will be on a timing which will concentrate people's minds," he said. "And you have heard ministers in both Washington and London saying weeks not months and that will be the framework for a debate on a specific proposition that the Council will then have to focus on."

About 60 delegates participated in the session, convened by South Africa, the current chair of the non-aligned movement of developing countries.

Permanent veto-holding council members France, Russia and China favor allowing inspections to continue while Britain and the United States say time is running out for Iraq to disarm. Australia and Japan have expressed their support for a U.S.-British resolution.