Sat, 26 Apr 2003

United Nations team should visit Iraq before deciding on sanctions

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia has urged the United Nations weapons inspection team to visit Iraq prior to the UN Security Council (UNSC) decision on whether or not to lift the long-standing economic sanctions imposed on the country.

Spokesman for the foreign ministry Marty Natalegawa said on Thursday that Indonesia was concerned about the humanitarian problems that have resulted from the sanctions that have been in place for over a decade, but stressed that its removal be determined through established UN procedures.

"The existence of weapons of mass destruction was the pretext of the sanctions and the U.S.-led attack, so this should be verified first before the UNSC makes any decisions regarding the sanction," Marty told The Jakarta Post.

"We are not ignorant of the sufferings of the Iraqi people, but because of recent events, UN procedures should be adhered to regarding the sanctions."

Indonesia was among the staunchest opponents of the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, calling it an act of aggression and a violation of international law.

Fresh from its victory in Iraq, the U.S., in its capacity as a permanent member of the UNSC, asked the world body to lift the economic sanctions on Baghdad.

Russia and China, also permanent members of the UNSC, have rejected the request, saying that the UN weapons inspection team should first determine the existence of weapons of mass destruction beforehand.

The U.S. has rejected the involvement of the UN inspection team, and has instead established its own verification team to prove the presence of weapons of mass destruction.

Some suspect that lifting the economic sanctions now would only benefit the U.S., which has established a postwar interim administration in Iraq.

Marty underlined that such a unilateral inspection team was inadequate for providing the information upon which the UNSC would base its decision regarding the sanctions.

"We were against the sanction when it was imposed years ago, and there are UN procedures to be complied with before lifting it," he said.

International relations analyst from the Centre of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Jusuf Wanandi suggested that Indonesia join the call to ask for the return of the UN inspection team to Iraq.

"It was the UNSC which imposed the sanctions, so they should be the ones who must take the appropriate steps before deciding to lift it," Jusuf concurred.

He said that it was not a matter of whether the U.S. would benefit from the removal of the sanctions, but it was a matter of making an attempt to put the world back in order.

"The U.S. ignored the UN when they decided to attack Iraq, and this behavior cannot be tolerated again after the war," he said.

Meanwhile, UN weapons inspectors should return to Iraq to play a vital role with regard to weapons of mass destruction, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was quoted by Agence France-Presse on Friday.

Straw said the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) led by Hans Blix should be allowed to resume its work in tracking down any weapons of mass destruction held by the fallen Iraqi regime.