Upholding the UN

Addressing the European Parliament’s Socialist group which met in Athens, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis left no room for misunderstanding. «We lay especial stress on the support of legality and pursue a world in which the international community will have effective, powerful forms of intervention so as to strengthen security against all types of threat,» Simitis said, adding that this process must begin from Iraq, even a posteriori. «The UN must have a decisive presence in Iraq in the period after the war. The management of issues in this period by the belligerents will cause new confrontations and crises… Only the UN can play a leading role in the case of Iraq, avoid the marginalization of the Iraqi people and the identification of those responsible for reconstruction as enemies» and thus avert «a new wave of terrorism,» Simitis said. The premier’s views do not reflect the position only of those who oppose the war. Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, «What we have agreed with the United States is that the post-conflict arrangements should be endorsed by the UN.» «If that is so, they have got to be acceptable to the UN,» he added. On Tuesday, Straw stressed that London will pursue a new UN resolution safeguarding the territorial integrity of Iraq and a proper postwar administration. Straw also said that the UN should be in charge of the international humanitarian aid to Iraq and said that his government wants a UN-sponsored conference involving representatives of Iraq’s different ethnic groups that will ultimately elect the new Iraqi leadership. Although some of these remarks are an attempt to take the lid off international and domestic pressure, Straw’s views are still very significant. They indicate that tarnished as the UN might have been recently, the idea that the UN must be restored as a vehicle of international legitimacy is gaining ground. London is becoming aware of the threats of a world stripped of all-binding international law and institutions. Also, bringing back the issue of Iraq under the UN umbrella could perhaps repair the frayed ties of Continental Europe with the US and Britain. It would be fortunate if Washington shared London’s concerns. Western unity would have a lot to gain from such a development.