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Letter to UN Security Council by US Ambassador John Negroponte

The Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations

March 20, 2003

To: Mr Mamady Traore
President - Security Council
United Nations
New York, New York


Coalition forces have commenced military operations in Iraq. These operations are necessary in view of Iraq's continued material breaches of its disarmament obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions including 1441 (2002). The operations are substantial and will secure compliance with these obligations. In carrying out these operations, our forces will take all reasonable precautions to avoid civilian casualties.

The actions being taken are authorized under existing Council resolutions: including resolution 678 (1990) and resolution 687 (1991). Resolution 687 imposed a series of obligations on Iraq, including most importantly, extensive disarmament obligations, that were the conditions of the cease-fire established under it. It has been long recognized and understood that a material breach of these obligations removes the basis of the ceasefire and revives the authority to use force under resolution 678. This has been the basis for coalition use of force in the past and has been accepted by the Council, as evidenced, for example, by the Secretary General's public announcement in January 1993 following Iraq's material breach of resolution 687 that coalition forces had received a mandate from the Council to use force according to resolution 678.

Iraq continues to be in material breach of its disarmament obligations under resolution 687, as the Council affirmed in resolution 1441. Acting under the authority of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Council unanimously decided that Iraq has been and remained in material breach of its obligations and recalled its repeated warnings to Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations. The resolution then provided Iraq a "final opportunity" to comply, but stated specifically that violations by Iraq of its obligations under resolution 1441 to present a currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its weapons of mass destruction programs and to comply with and cooperate fully in the resolution's implementation would constitute a further material breach.

The Government of Iraq decided not to avail itself of its final opportunity under resolution 1441 and has clearly committed additional violations. In view of Iraq's material beaches, the basis for the cease-fire has been removed, and the use of force is authorized under resolution 678.

Iraq repeatedly has refused, over a protracted period of time, to respond to diplomatic overtures, economic sanctions, and other peaceful means designed to help bring about Iraqi compliance with its obligations to disarm and to permit full inspection of its WMD and related programs. The actions that coalition forces are undertaking are an appropriate response. They are necessary to defend the United States and the international community from the threat posed by Iraq and to restore international peace and security in the area. Further delay would simply allow Iraq to continue its unlawful and threatening conduct.

It is the Government of Iraq that bears full responsibility for the serious consequences of its defiance of the Council’s decisions. I would be grateful if you could circulate the text of this letter as a document of the Security Council.


(signed) John D. Negroponte

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).