(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): Malaysia
should use her United Nations Security Council position in the new year
to press for reconstitution of United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM)
to address the problem of disarmament of weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq as well as the lifting of the eight-year sanctions on Iraq.
Malaysian Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi has said that Malaysia supports efforts to form a new UNSCOM to resolve the problem in Iraq, following reports that France would take the initiative to set up the new UNSCOM to replace the existing one which had failed to gain the confidence of Iraq.
A week ago, the French President Jacques Chirac has urged a "fundamental review" of relations between Baghdad and the United Nations and called for a "new organisation and a new method" to vet Iraq's weapons programmes; a review of the UN embargo on Iraqi oil sales, linked to "very tight" supervision of how the oil revenue is spent; and an improvement in living conditions for the Iraqi public.
The recent statement by the United States Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering threatening Iraq with "sanctions in perpetuity" if it does not allow U.N. weapons inspectors to resume work must be deplored, as the United States Administration must take into account international concerns about the role of UNSCOM resulting in the recent Anglo-American air-strikes against Iraq.
Former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter, for instance, has accused the United States of having maneuvered U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq into providing a pretext for the attacks on Baghdad it and Britain launched last week.
Ritter believed that the UNSCOM inspection was rushed through, and the sites weren't chosen for disarmament reasons, but rather to be provocative in nature so Iraq would respond in a predictable fashion as to justify military action.
As Ritter was a high-profile member of UNSCOM charged with finding and destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction until he resigned in August in a dispute over the conduct of weapons inspections, the United Nations and the international community should conduct a serious investigation as to whether UNSCOM chief inspector Richard Butler had allowed the United States to manipulate the work of UNSCOM in such a fashion as to justify an airstrike.
The time has also come for the end of the eight-year sanctions on Iraq. During the past eight years, more than one million Iraqi civilians have died from insufficient food and medicine. According to an UNICEF 1998 report, one million Iraqi children under the age of five are suffering from severe malnutrition.