Switzerland has told a special session of the United Nations Security Council that priority must be given to disarming Iraq by peaceful means.This content was published on March 12, 2003 - 11:18
Jenö Staehelin, the Swiss ambassador to the UN in New York, said weapons inspectors should be given more time to continue their mission.
"At this current stage, Switzerland can only support initiatives which aim to grant... inspectors a reasonable amount of time to complete their work," Staehelin said.
His comments came during an open session of the Security Council called to discuss the Iraq crisis.
Switzerland contributed to the debate alongside countries such as Iraq, Iran, Canada, Turkey and Australia.
Staehelin reiterated Switzerland's concern about the potentially destructive effects of a possible military conflict, particularly "in the humanitarian and social spheres".
He called on the Iraqi authorities to cooperate "fully, actively and unconditionally" with UN inspectors.
Staehelin added that the interim report - presented by Hans Blix and Mohammed El-Baradei on March 7 - showed "real progress" had been made in the identification and destruction of prohibited weapons.
But he cautioned that there were still "undeniable gaps" with regard to the cooperation between Baghdad and the United Nations.
"Furthermore, Switzerland notes that [inspectors] do not have, at this moment, conclusive information about Iraq's continued possession or production of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Switzerland once again warned the Security Council of the need to respect international law should all attempts to disarm Iraq peacefully fail.
Staehelin reminded members that 60 per cent of the Iraqi population was still dependent on food and medical supplies through the oil-for-food programme.
He drew attention to the "worrying moral and physical condition of millions of Iraqis, in particular women, children and the elderly, as well as the run-down state of medical and sanitation infrastructure in Iraq".
Staehelin's speech to the Security Council came just days after the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, signalled her opposition to war in Iraq.
Calmy-Rey told a humanitarian aid conference that conflict would fan the flames of international terrorism rather than increase global security.
On Wednesday Security Council members remained divided over whether to continue weapons inspections in Iraq or to authorise military action.
Washington has rejected a proposal to extend the deadline for Baghdad to disarm by 30 to 45 days, describing it as a "non-starter".
The United States has said it will seek members' approval of a new resolution before the end of the week.
swissinfo, Jacob Greber
The Swiss ambassador to the UN in New York has told the Security Council that weapons inspectors should be given more time to continue their mission in Iraq.
Jenö Staehelin also called on Iraqi authorities to cooperate "fully" with UN inspectors.
He said that a March 7 report by arms inspectors showed that progress had been made in the identification and destruction of prohibited weapons.
Staehelin warned the UN of the need to respect international law should Iraq fail to disarm.
He reiterated Switzerland's concern that a military conflict could cause a humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
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