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Mbeki broadsides Bush with tough anti-war vow
Posted: Friday, January 24, 2003

By John Battersby,

President Thabo Mbeki has called on all South Africans to join the world campaign against a United States-led war against Iraq.

His call on Friday came as the transatlantic rift widened over whether to disarm Iraq by force.

Mbeki also sent a clear message to US President George Bush: there are no grounds for war.

"Nothing credible has been said that any such breach has occurred to justify a resort to war," Mbeki said, articulating a view which has a groundswell of support among the industrialised nations and the backing of the entire developing world.

And in a broadside against Washington, Mbeki lambasted those who threatened Iraq with war but did nothing about Israel's nuclear weapons.

"They say nothing whatsoever against Israel's weapons of mass destruction.

"Of course, from their point of view, the matter has nothing to do with principle.

"It turns solely on the question of power... We disagree."

Mbeki's intervention comes on the eve of a critical session of the United Nations security council which will hear the first report of the UN weapons inspectors on their findings after several weeks of inspection in Iraq.

Bush's insistence that the US has sufficient grounds to wage war without a security council vote has pitted Russia, Germany, France, China and Canada against his country and Britain.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair - looking increasingly isolated in supporting the United States-led rhetoric for military action to disarm Saddam Hussein - is expected to face probing questions from Mbeki on his attitude to the UN and the consequences of a war with Iraq when they meet for a one-on-one summit next Saturday.

Mbeki, joining the growing international outrage at the prospect of war said in his weekly letter on the African National Congress's Today website:

"The situation demands that once more the masses of our people must act together as a powerful force for peace in the world.

"They have an obligation to stand up and join the struggle for peace," he said.

It is understood that mass action was discussed at the ANC's three-day workshop last weekend and that peace marches, led by the ruling party and supported by trade unions and civil society, are in the planning stage.

In his strongest call yet for Bush to heed the mounting global anti-war protest, Mbeki said that a war against Iraq would threaten international peace and security.

It would also spark a deep economic crisis in Africa as the price of oil soared and poverty deepened, and further delay a resolution of the Middle East conflict.

Mbeki said that Iraq had agreed to comply with the UN security council resolution and had allowed the weapons inspectors to return to pursue their mandate unhindered.

"We have committed ourselves to do everything in our power, limited as this power might be, to persuade Iraq to give herself and the United Nations the necessary space to resolve the matter at issue, peacefully and expeditiously."

He said the effort to disarm Iraq should not be used to justify a declaration of war.

"We are not aware of any information that would suggest that Iraq has been in serious material breach of the security council resolution."

Mbeki said South Africa was committed to the resolution of all disputes by peaceful means and was the "first and only" country in the world to voluntarily implement a comprehensive programme of disarmament and the destruction of its weapons of mass destruction.

And, in a statement after a three-day cabinet workshop, chief government spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe said the cabinet had reiterated South Africa's request to the UN that the arms inspectors' report should be considered in an open session in the presence of United Nations members who were not on the security council.

"South Africa supports the efforts of the international community to deal with this matter strictly in accordance with the resolutions of the UN security council," the cabinet statement said.

"It also welcomes the growing peace movement, in particular its objective of ensuring that actions pursued in the Gulf region are determined the interest of humanity as a whole."

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