Uniting For Peace


By Jeremy Brecher

March 20, 2003

All over the world, governments and civil society groups are proposing to take the US-led attack on Iraq to the UN General Assembly under a procedure known as "Uniting for Peace." The US is so alarmed that it has launched a preemptive attack with a letter to all countries in the world which "demands" that they avoid "calls for an emergency session of the General Assembly. Here's a report on the US efforts to block "Uniting for Peace," followed by reports from around the world on the effort to convene the UN General Assembly to challenge US aggression against Iraq.


The Chilean newspaper La Tercera reports that their embassy in Washington received a letter from the U.S., technically called a "non paper," that "demands" that they "focus on the real challenges that are to come and avoid provocative steps within the Security Council such as condemning resolutions or calls for an emergency session of the General Assembly. Such steps will not change the path that we are on, but will increase tensions, make divisions deeper and could provoke more damage to the UN and the Security Council."

US Ambassador to Chile Brownsfield confirmed that the letter was sent, saying it was in the hopes of "avoiding more diplomatic problems." He said it was sent to all the countries of the world.

Although Ambasador Brownsfield has said that Chile's position on the Security Council resolution won't affect the Free Trade Deal, he publicly criticized Chile's last-minute proposal to give Iraq more time to disarm. La Tercera says that after the press conference, he told individual journalists asking about whether there would be reprisals against Chile in the future if they don't support the U.S.: "I don't reject or accept anything. The future will develop however it develops."

In Barbados, diplomatic sources said the US State Department had sent an urgent note to regional governments stressing that the US would see the region's participation in such a meeting as "inimical to its national interest." In Jamaica, foreign ministry officials confirmed that the US Embassy in Kingston had verbally passed on a message from Washington that the Bush administration would prefer that Jamaica stay away if the General Assembly is in fact called into session. "My understanding is that we were contacted by the US Embassy asking us to refrain from giving support in relationship to what they understand to be a General Assembly meeting," junior foreign minister, Delano Franklyn, told the Jamaica Observer.


Diplomats told CNN that "members of the U.N.'s non-aligned nations - underdeveloped countries that make up more than two-thirds of the U.N. - had discussed calling an emergency session of the General Assembly under the 'Uniting for Peace' resolution."

The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, approved 226 to 101 a resolution calling on the Russian president to seek a UN General Assembly emergency session "due to the military action launched by the United States and Britain against Iraq." The same position is reportedly shared by the upper chamber. Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council Mikhail Margelov "said it is necessary to call urgently a session of the U.N. General Assembly." Head of the Defense and Security Committee Viktor Ozerov expressed anxiety for "an explosion in the Moslem world, and this will lead to stepped-up operations of international terrorists." First deputy chairman of the Industrial Policy Committee Sergaei Shatirov said the General Assembly should take into account the threat of a serious ecological disaster that "can affect land, air and water" connected with fires at oil deposits and wells which could affect the atmosphere in Russia.

Malaysia, current chairman of the 116-nation Non Aligned Movement, condemned a US-led attack on Iraq as "an illegal act of aggression." Acting Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that Malaysia, in its capacity of the Non-Aligned Movement chairman, "Will be consulting member countries of NAM on the appropriate course of action."

Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri called on the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to urge the US and its allies to stop the war. "If that was not possible, the UN General Assembly should meet to discuss the issue, Mrs. Megawati said after a special cabinet meeting."

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been "speaking to regional and international leaders - including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan - about the possibility of summoning those world leaders opposed to war to a meeting of the General Assembly to discuss alternatives to armed conflict."

Leader of the Democrats in the Australian parliament, Senator Andrew Bartlett, called on governments to use Resolution 377 (Uniting for Peace) to put war in Iraq before the UN General Assembly. "The assembly could mandate, for example, that the inspection regime be permitted to complete its inspections. An overwhelming vote against war by the nations of the world would increase the pressure on the United States, United Kingdom and Australia to reconsider."

At a seminar in Islamabad speakers including a former Air Force Chief and a former Secretary General of Foreign Affairs, the speakers advocated that "The matter should be taken to the UN General Assembly and war should be averted by gaining two-thirds majority in the Assembly."

Archbishop Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's justice and peace council and for 16 years Vatican representative to the UN, said that the UN General Assembly could hold an emergency session of all its members. "In that case, all the countries could talk and vote, and the entire international community would face its responsibilities."

British peace organization CND said, "The authority of the UN has been destroyed. The CND calls upon the UN to restore its own credibility by using the resolution uniting for peace to call for a full general assembly of the UN and to question this war."

Thousands of women from women's organizations in over 35 countries demonstrated in New Delhi, demanding that "UN member states use their power to carry out the emergency application of resolution 377 to convene the UN General Assembly to stop the bombing and avoid catastrophe." Women from Syria, Russia, China, Germany, Sweden, France, Canada, and Turkey among others participated.

The Greepeace flagship Rainbow Warrior blocked the U.S Navy vessel Cape Horn from delivering arms for the war against Iraq. "Greenpeace is calling on all members of the United Nations to prevent Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. from undermining the UN Charter by waging an illegal war on Iraq. Greenpeace said all 191 members of the UN General Assembly should use UN resolution 377, known as 'Uniting for Peace,' to call an emergency session." In Japan, Greenpeace Japan called on the government to promote the Uniting for Peace resolution. In Washington DC, Greenpeace demonstrators called for a "Uniting for Peace" resolution.

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