19 FEBRUARY 2003

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Malta aligns itself with EU on Iraq stance

Foreign Minister Joe Borg yesterday aligned Malta’s position on the Iraq conflict with that adopted by the European Union this week at yesterday’s EU Troika Meeting with Acceding Countries and Candidate Countries in Brussels.
Dr Borg commented, "We share the position that the full disarmament of Iraq must be effected. We too hold out hope that this may be effected peacefully if the Iraqi Government provides full, unconditional and active co-operation as set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1441.
"Malta will continue to support the EU with regard to the extremely preoccupying situation unfolding in Iraq. We also urge continued engagement with our Arab partners who have an important role to play in persuading the Iraqi Government to act in a way that will allow for a resolution of the current situation without recourse to military action."
Dr Borg also said that the Government of Malta welcomes the renewed call by the EU for the reinvigoration of the Middle East Peace Process. He explains, "The terrorism and violence there have for too long been allowed to spread tension in the region and beyond. We too support early implementation of the road map endorsed by the Quartet and urge the international community and the various actors to continue, and to intensify, their efforts towards a lasting peaceful resolution."
Dr Borg thanked the Greek Presidency for yesterday’s exchange of views and augured that a continued, unified EU stance will contribute towards a resolution of the current situation in Iraq without the need for military action.
European leaders on Monday warned Saddam Hussein he faces a "last chance" to disarm, but gave no deadline and said U.N. weapons inspectors must have more time to finish their work.
The statement came at the end of a European Union emergency summit on the crisis with Baghdad. Diplomats insisted they had healed the rift over US calls for military action. But significant divisions remained, with some states saying the United Nations could still disarm Iraq peacefully.
"War is not inevitable. Force should be used only as a last resort. It is for the Iraqi regime to end this crisis by complying fully with the demands of the Security Council," the 15 nations said in the joint declaration.
That was seen as a setback for Germany, which has opposed war under any circumstances.
"Baghdad should have no illusions. It must disarm and co-operate immediately and fully. The Iraqi regime alone will be responsible for the consequences if it continues to flout the will of the international community and does not take this last chance," the leaders said.
While that position will cheer the United States and Britain, which are urging military action, there was still strong support for continued, possibly increased UN weapons inspections. The statement gave no indication of how much longer inspections should continue, but said they could not go on forever without Iraqi co-operation.
"They must be given the time and resources that the UN Security Council believes they need," the declaration said. "However, inspections cannot continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi co-operation."
France, which has blocked any swift move to military action, insisted its position had been vindicated that only the UN Security Council can handle the issue - an implicit rejection of US statements that it has the right to disarm Iraq alone if necessary.
"We all agree the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is absolutely imperative (but) only the Security Council can handle the means," French President Jacque Chirac said.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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