Iraq not only target of war, says Aziz


IRAQ: A United States war against Iraq would be a war also against the rest of the Middle East, Europe, India, Sri Lanka and China, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Tariq Aziz, asserted yesterday.

"Iraq is the first but not the only target," Mr Aziz told a visiting Irish parliamentary fact-finding mission, at a meeting attended by The Irish Times. The delegation from the Foreign Affairs Committee included Mr Michael D. Higgins, Sen Michael Kitt and Mr Pádraig Allen, of the committee's secretariat.

Mr Aziz told the delegation that the US had initiated a political confrontation with Iraq in 1989, in the aftermath of the eight-year war with Iran. He said the Gulf War was an outcome of this policy.

The ultimate US aim was to "recolonise Iraq" and secure "control of its oil" in order to dominate the global economy, Mr Aziz said. By securing Iraq, the strategic heartland of the Arab world, the US would gain hegemony over the Gulf. He said that Washington had already taken control of Central Asian oil resources by installing itself in Afghanistan.

Mr Aziz added that "Britain, the former colonial power in the Gulf, wants to return".

He made the point that US, British, French and Dutch oil companies had divided up the exploitation and sale of the country's oil until Iraq nationalised the industry in 1972.

If the US and British succeeded in their war aims, he said, "Europe [and Iraq's other customers] will have to go to Chevron" rather than Iraq for their oil. The US would then be in a strong position to exert "leverage on them".

"The worldwide peace movement, which is now gaining strength, particularly in Europe, is protecting its own interests."

Mr Higgins said that the international community, its organisations and members of the Security Council felt that a war against Iraq was unjustified. He said that they must now act on this belief.

He suggested that Iraq agree to the dispatch to the region of a group of distinguished people with the aim of averting war. He urged Iraq to make "use of the time between the presentation of the UN report and its consideration by the Security Council" to put forward the case that war was not inevitable.

"This period must be used creatively to chip away at the case for war ... The logic of inevitability must be dislodged. There is no legal basis for preventive war, for collective punishment [of the Iraqi people] and for no-fly zones."

Since there was growing realisation that this was the case, Mr Higgins said, "the US and Britain are losing ground in the public mind". He listed three issues that must be resolved by such a mission: "the imminent threat of war, sanctions and the routine bombing of Iraq" by US and British war planes.

Mr Aziz said anyone would be welcome on such a mission.

"We would like to have a peaceful solution," he said.

However, he added that this mission should concentrate on disarmament and the threat of war rather than secondary issues such as human rights, Iraq's relations with its neighbours and democracy.

"We can address these issues once there is no threat of war. War is the ultimate violation of human rights."

Mr Higgins suggested that the mission could tackle the issues in phases, beginning with war.

Mr Aziz said this was a positive suggestion.

"Iraqis wonder why people are talking about human rights, democracy and regional security while they are constantly afraid of attack," he said.

While the membership of such a mission has not yet been decided, former South African president, Mr Nelson Mandela, former US president, Mr Jimmy Carter, and Mr George Papandreou, the foreign minister of Greece, which holds the EU presidency, are apparently front-runners.