0

Once again the current United States administration has shown the contempt it has for the United Nations. Last Friday afternoon a full meeting of the UN Security Council agreed that the comprehensive information supplied by Iraq about the weapons it holds should first be screened by the UN's team of weapons inspectors, a process that would take about 7 to 10 days; it would then be distributed to the five permanent members of the Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States and later to the ten current non-permanent members. However, late on Friday night Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice decided that the United States should not have to wait as long as ten days before gettting its hands on the inventory. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, was told to find a way of changing the Security Council's decision. He did this by leaning heavily on the current chairman of the Council, Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia, who consulted the other four permanent members of the Council and obtained their agreement to let the United States have exclusive first sight of Iraq's dossier. It is relevant, of course, that all five permanent Council members are nuclear powers.

There is a dispute about whether the non-permanent members of the Council without whose unanimous support Resolution 1441 on Iraq might not have been passed - were consulted by the Chairman. Syria is quite certain that it was not and has rightly protested strongly about what happened.

RAY FLEMING