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Critics Say US Lacks Legal Basis for Attack
Published on Thursday, March 20, 2003 by the New York Times
Critics Say U.S. Lacks Legal Basis for Attack
by Felicity Barringer
 

UNITED NATIONS, March 19 — Diplomats who had failed for the last two months to agree on a unified approach to the Iraq crisis met here today, with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Russia offering angry post-mortems on the diplomatic debacle and arguing that the planned American-led invasion to disarm Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein had no basis in international law.

Speaking of various Security Council resolutions on the Iraq crisis, Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov of Russia said "not one of these decisions authorizes the right to use force against Iraq outside the United Nations charter." Like his counterparts from France and Germany, he continued to argue that the inspections process had achieved results in disarming Iraq.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany, referring to the widespread finger-pointing over the diplomatic impasse, said, "The Security Council has not failed," adding, "The Security Council is not responsible for what is happening outside the United Nations."

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, chose to skip the meeting. Mr. Powell underlined the snub by meeting with the Angolan foreign minister, Joćo Bernardo de Miranda, in Washington while the Council session was under way.

The Security Council members also heard a report from one of the chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix, who discussed the progress of the inspections that were aborted on Monday and expressed regret both at the abrupt cessation of inspections and the earlier, limited cooperation of the Iraqi government.

The oddity of a meeting being held to discuss an unrelated matter was underlined by the American ambassador, John D. Negroponte, who said, "Considering a work program at this time is quite simply out of touch with the reality that we confront."

The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, emphasized the human consequences of war, saying the Iraqis were "heavily dependent on the food ration which is handed out each month to every family in the country" and which has been suspended with the removal of United Nations personnel from Iraq.

The festering ugliness of the relationships between France, and Britain and the United States was underscored by the remarks of the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, to reporters outside the Council chamber.

"I believe this kind of criticism that we have seen in the last few days is absolutely unfair," Mr. de Villepin said. "Let us not seek out scapegoats."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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