— By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - After falling short in the Security
Council, Arab envoys decided on Monday to seek an emergency session
of the 191-nation U.N. General Assembly to revive their campaign for
an immediate end to the war in Iraq.
"The point of the request is to save the lives of Iraqi
civilians," one Arab diplomat said.
"We will ask for a cease-fire and a return to peaceful
disarmament in Iraq," said the envoy, who spoke on condition of
Unlike the 15-nation Security Council, whose resolutions can be
binding under international law, the General Assembly can make only
political statements expressing the sense of the international
But an assembly resolution critical of the U.S.-led war would
nonetheless be highly embarrassing to both Washington and
"We don't think a General Assembly meeting is necessary," a U.S.
official said. "This type of session is only going to divide U.N.
members. What we need right now is to deal with the situation of the
Iraqi people on the ground."
Malaysian Ambassador Rastam Mohd Isa, who heads the group of
nonaligned countries at the United Nations, plans to request the
special session, in a letter to Portuguese U.N. Ambassador Goncalo
de Santa Clara Gomes, Arab envoys said.
Santa Clara Gomes is the assembly's acting president in the
absence of Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, who is out of town until
April 9, U.N. officials said.
'HALT THE AGGRESSION'
Arab diplomats said they were seeking the assembly meeting on
orders from Arab foreign ministers, who adopted a declaration in
Cairo last week "affirming (their) solidarity with Baghdad" and
condemning "the American-British aggression against Iraq."
The declaration instructed Arab nations at the United Nations to
initially try to "halt the aggression" through an emergency session
of the Security Council.
Failing that, it told the bloc to take the matter to the General
The council held a two-day debate on Iraq last week. But Arab
envoys, sensing they lacked the votes, scrapped plans to press for a
vote on a resolution demanding an immediate withdrawal of foreign
forces from Iraq.
Both the United States and Britain have veto power in the
Security Council. Calling for a vote, only to see a resolution
defeated, would have risked legitimizing the U.S.-British invasion
after the fact, the envoys said.
It was not immediately clear how much support Iraq could count on
in the General Assembly, where Washington and London do not have a
But the United States has been aggressively lobbying governments
around the world for the past two weeks to help head off an
emergency assembly session on Iraq.
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