NGOs Decry 'Bribes' and 'Threats' Behind U.N. Vote

by Thalif Deen (http://www.ips.org)

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 (IPS) - A coalition of over 150 peace groups and global non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is lashing out at the U.N. Security Council for adopting a resolution that virtually legitimises the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and endorses the foreign occupation of a U.N. member state.

"The United States was successful in bulldozing its way because it offered too many bribes and held out too many threats," says Rob Wheeler, a spokesman for the Uniting for Peace Coalition.

The "threats," he said, were against developing nations in the 15-member Security Council, and the "bribes" were the promises made to more powerful nations, which caved in to U.S. pressure.

"Iraq has the world's second largest oil reserves. The United States will now decide how those reserves are to be distributed. And nobody wants to be cut out of the pie," Wheeler told IPS on Thursday.

The resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain, was adopted Thursday by a vote of 14:1, with Syria, the only Arab nation in the Council, refusing to participate in the voting.

Approval of the seven-page resolution, which not only lifts the 12-year-old U.N. sanctions on Iraq but also provides political legitimacy to U.S. rule in that war devastated nation, was being hailed as a major diplomatic victory for Washington.

Chile and Mexico, two developing nations in the Security Council with important trade relations with the United States, were under heavy pressure to vote for the resolution. And so were other developing nations in the Council, added Wheeler.

James Paul of the New York-based Global Policy Forum said that "many threats - and promises of a few oil fields - have brought the Council membership into line".

Chile's U.N. ambassador, he said, was recalled by his government "for failing to show sufficient support and enthusiasm for the U.S. position".

The developing nations in the Security Council - including Mexico, Cameroon, Chile, Angola and Guinea - justified their support by focusing largely on the benefits that the removal of sanctions will offer to the long suffering Iraqis and the country's reconstruction.

Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico said his country supported the resolution because it set in motion that reconstruction. Describing the plan as a "compromise", he said that all proceeds of oil resources should be channelled towards the Iraqi people.

"The advisory and monitoring mechanism must guarantee that the handling of oil would be done in a transparent manner. Iraq's future was a great challenge for the United Nations, and to confront it squarely, the organisation itself had to be strengthened."

The resolution spelling out the future of Iraq was adopted without the presence of a single Iraqi in the Council chamber - a rare occurrence in the Security Council's decision-making process.

With the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, his chief representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri, packed his bags and left New York last month. As a result, Iraq has remained headless at the United Nations.

Although the resolution opened the door for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan singled out the issues he said the Security Council failed to address.

Akram regretted that the resolution did not specify the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in declaring Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction; it did not end the U.N. arms embargo against the country and it did not clarify the U.N.'s role in a future Iraq.

France, which threatened to use its veto against a previous U.S. resolution seeking U.N. approval for an invasion of Iraq last March, went along with the current plan.

While the resolution creates a U.S.-dominated Provisional Authority to run the country, it establishes a development fund for Iraq's oil revenues. The U.N.'s oil-for-food programme, which was mandated to use oil revenues to buy food and humanitarian supplies to sanctions-hit Iraqis, will be phased out over the next six months.

The resolution also creates an International Advisory and Monitoring Board and requests U.N. chief Kofi Annan to appoint a special representative to oversee humanitarian assistance to Iraqis.

But "far from playing a vital role (the United Nations) is relegated to an advisory and consultative body", said Wheeler.

Even the proposed advisory body, he said, would include representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), organisations controlled by the United States.

To placate the Russians and the French, who are owed billions of dollars by the ousted Saddam Hussein regime, the resolutions seeks the "prompt completion of the restructuring of Iraq's debt".

Ambassador Mamady Troare of Guinea said adopting the resolution represented a success for the United Nations and for the Security Council, which had rediscovered the golden rule of consensus.

Cameroon's Martin Belinga-Eboutou said he had long believed that sanctions against Iraq should be lifted, and that the United Nations should play an important role in rebuilding the country.

But Annan was more cautious when he told delegates that "the mandate given to the United Nations involved complex and difficult tasks".

Other members of Uniting for Peace include the Center for Economic and Social Rights, Global Exchange, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Friends of the Earth International (all U.S.-based), Third World Network (Malaysia), World Peace and Nuclear Disarmament (India), NGO Forum (Mauritius) and the World Peace Council (Greece). (END)

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