UN council proposed to eliminate arms stockpiles

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2002, 12:00am

The United Nations must create a council to oversee the elimination of the world's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, the last chief arms inspector to Iraq proposed yesterday.

Richard Butler, who headed the UN inspection team from 1997 until it was forced out by Saddam Hussein in 1999, said that disarming the Iraqi president's regime should herald the process of destroying the world's stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. No country - not even the United States - could be exempt as such arms in the wrong hands would cause a catastrophe, he said.

The council would operate beside the UN Security Council, but its activities would be dedicated to ensuring that dangerous weapons were destroyed, Mr Butler said after an address at the Forbes Global CEO Conference at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

'It would have political responsibility for the implementation of the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons non-proliferation treaties,' he said. 'Infractions would be reported to the council and it would interview the state concerned and have the rights of inspection. Ultimately it would require that state, under international law, to stop that infraction.'

Weapons of mass destruction were spreading and threatening humanity. It was alarming that they could be acquired by terrorist groups.

Nuclear powers, the US, China, Britain, France and Russia - the permanent members of the Security Council - had in May last year promised the world in writing that their policy was to destroy their own atomic weapons. But, said Mr Butler, there was little evidence that such a process was under way.

'We shouldn't have to await a train wreck before we make a historical change,' he said.

He believed it was ironic that the US was trying to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction when it possessed the largest such stockpiles.

'This double-standard has to be addressed,' he said. 'Ultimately, we have to get weapons of mass destruction out of civilised life and that must include also the big states.'

Mr Butler believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Mr Hussein was a liar for suggesting otherwise.

But the Security Council had to stand firm and order him to comply. The council was the world's law maker and enforcer, but it had so far failed to do its job towards Iraq.