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    IRAQ ONE YEAR ON: NO ALTERNATIVE TO THE UN

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    By Yuri Fedotov, deputy Russian foreign minister - RIA Novosti.

    A year has passed since the beginning of the Iraqi war. The time has come to consider some results and weigh up the pluses and minuses of the current situation in and around Iraq.

    Perhaps, there is only one plus: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's repressive and dictatorial regime. Even this point comes with reservations, as democratic reforms must be brought about by internal processes, and not imposed with the occupying forces' bayonets.

    There are many more minuses. That the thousands of coalition troops cannot effectively control security in Iraq is only one aspect of the problem. The main problem is the lack of a clear vision for a political settlement that could be supported by the Iraqi people and enjoy international legitimacy.

    The Iraqi war was unleashed under the pretext that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction. It has become clear now that the international inspectors were right, as was the UN Security Council, the majority of whose members agreed with the conclusions drawn as a result of their professional work. All the attempts of the USA and its coalition allies to find WMD in Iraq have failed, which they have been forced to admit.

    In the wake of the war, have we received any guarantees that the Iraqi WMD chapter can be closed? No, we have not. The problem is that Iraq did develop such weapons in the 1980s. Before the war there was a real opportunity to place all of Iraq's military programmes and developments under international control. Now in the current chaos, there is no certainty that some components and materials related to WMD programmes, research results in this field and lastly, scientists and developers of military programmes, have not end up in the worst possible place: in the hands of international terrorists.

    Another pretext for unleashing the war was allegations about the Hussein regime's ties with international terrorism, in particular, with al-Qaeda. Now, as time has passed, it will be difficult to discover any evidence confirming or refuting these allegations. However, one fact is obvious: after the beginning of the war, Iraq became a bridgehead for international terrorism. It turns out that this "anti-terrorist" aim of the war has not been achieved either.

    The living standards of the Iraqi people have not improved over the past year. According to a number of indices, the country's economic situation has deteriorated, even compared with the time when international economic sanctions were in force. Iraq with its oil reserves, developed industry (even though it needs modernisation), good infrastructure, agriculture, which satisfied the main domestic requirements and lastly, impressive reserves of skilled workforce and managerial personnel has never been a poor country. The ambitious multi-million assistance programmes for the country's restoration should be enough to build another Iraq. However, the question is when they will be implemented. Indeed, much will depend on what the future system of Iraq will be and whether the country itself can be preserved as a single viable state.

    Before the war Russia consistently advocated a political settlement of the Iraqi issue on the basis of international law, while it warned the international community of the negative consequences of a military operation without the sanction of the UN Security Council. The majority of the international community shared this approach. By refusing to vote for the war, the Security Council did not lose face, but, on the contrary, strengthened its international role and prestige.

    The Iraqi crisis confirms that not a single power, however strong, can cope with the complex challenges of modern times single-handedly. At present, the USA, Britain and other participants in the coalition are more and more often stating that the Iraqi settlement should be achieved by relying on a broader international basis with the participation of the UN. Following a trip made to Baghdad by representatives of the UN secretary-general, specific issues related to this organisation's participation in the restoration effort are being drawn up. For this, there is a good asset: the adopted Security Council resolutions. They aim to restore Iraq's sovereignty as soon as possible and ensure that the UN plays the key role in this process. The international community must consistently work for this.

    So, there is a real chance that the Iraqi problem will be solved in accordance with the norms of international law. However, it is important that the UN be given an authoritative and, most importantly, an independent role in Iraq. It will then be possible to talk about a settlement model that will not only be supported by the Iraqi people, but that will also receive broad international recognition.

    Now, a year after the outbreak of the Iraqi war, it has become obvious that all the dire talk about the failure and end of the UN were ungrounded. On the contrary, the awareness that there is no alternative to joint efforts, which the UN embodies, has only strengthened. The 58th UN General Assembly, which was held in the autumn of 2003, developed into a vivid demonstration of the loyalty of the overwhelming majority of the international community to the fundamental principles of the UN Charter. Today, these sentiments are only growing in the world.

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