U.S. Battles Calls for Emergency UN Session on Iraq
Friday 21 March 2003
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States has launched a worldwide diplomatic drive to head off the calling of an emergency session of the U.N. General Assembly to condemn the U.S.-led war on Iraq, diplomats said on Friday.
The group of nonaligned nations at the United Nations met earlier this week to consider convening a special session of the 191-nation assembly to denounce the United States.
But the group of 166 countries, led currently by Malaysia, failed to agree on whether to go ahead after some argued action was premature as the war had not yet begun, diplomats said.
No new meeting of the group has been set since the invasion began on Wednesday. But "there are a lot of countries talking about that,'' said Syrian U.N. Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe.
Envoys attributed the disarray among the nonaligned to U.S. diplomatic muscle and said many countries feared offending Washington.
"The United States is putting pressure on many countries to resist,'' said General Assembly President Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic.
U.S. diplomats were opposing a special assembly session and -- if that failed -- to vote against a resolution condemning the United States, Kavan told reporters.
In Washington, a State Department official confirmed the United States was making its case that an emergency session "would not serve the interests of the United Nations.''
"We do feel that we have a convincing case (for not calling a session) but the situation is still fluid,'' the official said.
Unlike the Security Council, whose resolutions can be binding under international law, the General Assembly can make only political statements expressing the sense of the international community.
But an assembly resolution critical of the U.S.-led war would nonetheless be highly embarrassing to both Washington and London.
Despite U.S. efforts, Kavan said he thought it "very likely'' although "not a certainty'' that a special session would be called as early as next week.
If no session were called or a resolution defeated, "it would be a very clear victory for the United States,'' he said.
There are several avenues open at the United Nations to foes of the U.S. attack on Iraq. A U.N. member could simply request a special session, which would require an assembly vote to go forward.
Or a U.N member could notify Kavan that the Security Council was deadlocked on the Iraq issue. Kavan would then consult all U.N. members and would be obliged to convene an emergency session if a majority of its members -- at least 96 nations -- gave their consent by return fax.
Iraq said on Thursday it would ask the Security Council to condemn the United States for acting like a "terrorist state'' by launching a war in violation of international law -- a move that could be seen as a prelude to declaring the council deadlocked.
Indonesia also wants a council debate and if this fails will ask the assembly to step in, an Indonesian diplomat said.
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