HomeMEDIA RESOURCES200325 May 2003, Prague - PRESS COMMUNIQUE
25 May 2003, Prague - PRESS COMMUNIQUE
PRAGUE, May 25 - NATO and Russian parliamentarians held a lively exchange of views on Iraq on Saturday during a meeting of the joint NATO – PA Parliamentary Standing Committee – only the second time the newly created body has met.
Speakers from several of the 20 countries represented in the committee – the parliamentary counterpart to the inter-governmental NATO-Russian Council – voiced widely differing opinions, reflecting the divisions both within and between countries in the run-up to last April’s war to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
Lubov Sliska of Russia’s State Duma regretted the NATO - Parliamentary Assembly (PA) – Russia forum had not met during the crisis in a bid to try and find more common ground, but stressed the focus of attention should not now be the divisions of the past but future cooperation.
She welcomed this week’s UN resolution to lift sanctions against Iraq and said her country “was ready to play a full part in the humanitarian intervention.”
Fellow Russian Victor Ozerov of the Federation Council said the issue of Iraq had raised important questions regarding the observance of international law. “The rule of the fist prevailed rather than international law,” he said.
Sliska’s call to focus on the future and learn lessons from past divisions was echoed by many other speakers, but the divisions which strained alliance relationships before and during the war were still evident.
Pierre Lellouche, one of the few senior French politicians to back the conflict, said he was “flabbergasted” that some other parliamentarians, such as Britain’s Alice Mahon, were still asking for evidence of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, one of the main justifications for the war.
“We need to keep asking our politicians where they are,” Mahon had told the gathering.
Lellouche told the meeting Saddam Hussein had done “everything he could” to obtain chemical and nuclear weapons and had then used them on his own people. He identified one of the main problems as the lack of democratic regimes throughout the region.
“Several Iraqi cities or towns were hit by chemical weapons. This regime was responsible for the deaths of one million people – that too is aggression,” he declared.
Rafael Estrella of Spain’s socialist party, who chaired the meeting, said one had to look at the threat posed by Iraq within the broader context of instability in the Middle East and in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he welcomed the debate and particularly the emerging consensus it was time to look to the future.
“This shows the importance of a joint body which allows us to discuss all these issues with Russia on an equal footing,” he said.
The meeting took place within the framework of the NATO Assembly’s spring session which is being held in the Municipal House in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic which opens formally on Sunday, May 26.
Background: The NATO Parliamentary Assembly, founded in 1955, brings together 214 national parliamentarians from the 19 NATO countries. Associate delegations from 17 nations also take part in most Assembly activities and meetings.
For more information: Jonathan Clayton, NATO – PA spokesperson. Tel: (+420) 222 002 264 Mobile: (+420) 736 230 687