TUC statement on Iraq - 26 Feb 2003

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date: Feb 26 2003

embargo: immediate

Attention: industrial, political correspondents

The TUC General Council unaminously agreed the following statement on Iraq at its meeting today:

'The General Council recall and reaffirm the positions adopted by Congress in 2002, the key points of which were that the emphasis should be on a multilateral approach working through, and only with, the explicit authority of the UN Security Council; that they unambiguously opposed any military action being contemplated by the US or any other country on a unilateral basis; that the Government should seek to align with our EU partners its response to any initiative by the US Administration; and that military action should only be an option as a last resort, if all diplomacy failed, and if there was evidence made generally available which clearly demonstrated that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems and posed a real threat to world peace.

'On the evidence currently available, the General Council do not judge these conditions to have been met and for war to be justified. They reiterate the view of Congress that to avoid the desperate human cost that would arise in the event of war, particularly on the various peoples of Iraq and the massive refugee problem which may be caused, every effort should be made to find solutions through diplomatic and peaceful means with the UN playing a central role to ease tension and avoid war, with the clear objective of achieving disarmament and not regime change.

'The General Council are deeply concerned at increasing indications that the United States Administration backed by the British Government and some others, is intent on military action in Iraq within weeks, and that action might be taken without the explicit authorisation of the UN Security Council. They emphasise that this approach is not supported by working people and their families, their trade union organisations led by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the European Trade Union Confederation, and the majority of peoples and Governments worldwide. The General Council welcome the joint statement of the President of the AFL-CIO and the TUC General Secretary on 30 January in advance of the meeting in Washington of the US President and British Prime Minister.

'The General Council welcome the massive and historic demonstrations against war held in London, Glasgow, Belfast and other towns and cities around the UK on February 15, in which hundreds of thousands of trade unionists participated, and believe that no democratic government can embark on a war without the consent of the people. The General Council note the opposition to war of such leaders as Nelson Mandela, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and believe that moral repugnance towards any regime cannot on its own be sufficient justification for war. The General Council note that many British trade unionists will be affected directly or indirectly by any conflict, including as a result of the economic consequences of war. They are also concerned at the dangers of an increase in racial tensions and a possible increase in racist attacks and activities in the event of war.

'The General Council are concerned at the damaging consequences of action taken without the sanction of the Security Council for multilateral institutions, such as the UN and NATO, and for the future development of the European Union. Such action would further destabilise the Middle East region as a whole and exacerbate the problems in Israel and Palestine.

'The General Council reiterate the condemnation by Congress of the continuing political, national and religious oppression by the Iraqi regime which has resulted in great human suffering and a massive flow of refugees, as well as its persistent flouting of the decisions of the United Nations since 1991, which included 17 Resolutions. They insist that Iraq should respect the terms of UNSC Resolution 1441 and co-operate fully with the weapons inspectors.

'The General Council have considered the reports of the chief weapons inspectors to the UN Security Council on 14 February and the subsequent debates in the UN and in the EU Council. It was clear that the inspectors believed that, while Iraq did not meet the requirements of Security Council Resolution 1441 and previous Resolutions and should co-operate fully, particularly concerning large unaccounted-for quantities of deadly chemical and bacteriological agents and in respect of prohibited long-range missiles, they also believed that the inspection process had not run its course.

'The General Council believe that the monitoring and inspection process should be given the time required and be ongoing until the Security Council decide otherwise. The adoption now of a further Security Council Resolution aimed at short-circuiting this process would only undermine the unanimity reached over UNSCR 1441.

'The General Council are requesting a meeting with the Prime Minister to press him to use whatever influence he may have on the US Administration, even at this late date, to work towards a peaceful solution by all available means. The General Council will be closely monitoring events in the coming days and may be reconvened urgently - on an extended basis to include representatives from all affiliated unions - to consider the TUC’s position further.

'The General Council support the joint statement of the Foreign Secretary and the Norwegian Foreign Minister on 21 January that ‘the international community must take as much care to address the crisis in Israel and the Occupied Territories as the crisis that results from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction’. They call on the Prime Minister to press on the President of the United States the need for active support in seeking a lasting settlement based on the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions, notably 242 and 338, including the ending of the settlements policy and the creation of a viable Palestinian State alongside Israel.'

Notes to Editors:

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