Iraq accused Israel yesterday of harboring weapons of mass destruction during a speech at a meeting of the U.N. arms control body that Baghdad is scheduled to chair later this year.
“We all know Israel has nuclear arms and has signed the treaty banning chemical weapons, but nobody knows where their stocks are,” said Iraqi Ambassador Samir Al-Nima at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.
“We also know Israel has biological weapons, but nobody knows where those stocks are,” Al Nima continued.
As WorldNetDaily reported on Monday, Baghdad will preside over the agenda of a committee established in 1979 as “the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.”
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said Iraq will take over the chairmanship, or presidency, at the end of May, according to an alphabetical rotating schedule, and continue until July 20. According to conference rules, the president represents the body before other countries and organs of the U.N. in addition to the “normal functions of a presiding officer.”
Haq insisted that Iraq’s defiance of U.N. disarmament resolutions does not damage the group’s credibility.
“All the members at some point sit briefly as the chair of its work,” Haq told WND. “And that includes countries that are party to disarmament treaties and those that aren’t.”
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday that Iraq’s leadership of the Conference on Disarmament is unacceptable.
“Iraq has, for more than 12 years, defied numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding this disarmament and remains under Article 7 sanctions,” Boucher said. “Under these conditions, the United States believes it’s unacceptable for Iraq to assume the presidency of the international community’s main multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.”
Asked whether the U.S. could do anything about it, Boucher said only, “We’re considering our options.”
Yesterday’s accusations by Iraq were sparked by Israeli ambassador Yaakov Levy’s appeal to the conference for a Middle East free of biological, chemical and nuclear arms, according to Reuters. Levy accused “certain countries” of seeking weapons of mass destruction and supplying “terrorist groups” with conventional arms.
Iraq’s Al-Nima retorted: “The international community has not seen practical steps taken by Israel to disarm in the nuclear field.”
“The Israeli envoy spoke of my country without naming it,” Al-Nima said. “But Israel is no longer hiding its aggressive ideas and intentions against my country and in fact is trying to incite this war against my country daily.”
Israel’s close ally, the U.S., reportedly kept quiet during the verbal attacks on Israel. Syria and Algeria, however, joined in the debate, insisting that Israel should open its nuclear facilities to the same inspectors scrutinizing Iraq.
Reuters said an Israeli Defense Ministry spokeswoman declined to comment on the Iraqi remarks. Israel has a policy of not discussing its nuclear capability but is widely believed to have about 300 warheads.
Levy noted that during the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq hit Israel with 39 Scud ballistic missiles. Israel agreed to not retaliate at that time but has vowed to respond if Iraq attacks with non-conventional weapons or causes major damage in a future war.
At a news conference on Wednesday, two Republican House members denounced Iraq’s upcoming chairmanship of the Conference on Disarmament.
“With the consideration of Iraq to head the Conference on Disarmament, the U.N. now becomes worse than any off, off, off-Broadway show,” said Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz. “It becomes the theater of the absurd.”
“This is ridiculous,” said Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y. “It’s like the fox watching over the hen house.”
Fossella said “Iraq has zero credibility to disarm any nation when it stands in violation of U.N. resolutions because it continues to develop weapons of mass destruction.”
“This decision will leave a permanent stain on the conference, undermine its credibility and threaten its mission to disarm nations that possess nuclear weapons,” he contended.