by Mario de Queiroz
(IPS) LISBON --
United Nations' days may be numbered, at least in its current shape, according to analysts here.
That was their reading of the statement issued by the United States after a heralded 'summit' on Portugal's Azores islands on Sunday.
The message by President George W. Bush and backed without reservations by the prime ministers of Britain and Spain, Tony Blair and Jose Mar’a Aznar, and later joined by their host, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, was that the time for diplomacy over Iraq had ended.
The summit at the wind-swept Lajes air base clearly marked the parameters of the new international order, which will be designed with or without the United Nations, said the analysts.
The Azores Declaration on Iraq adopted by the leaders meeting at the Lajes base, which is jointly run by the United States and Portugal, said the position taken by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein weakened the authority of the Security Council.
"It's important for the UN to be able to function well if we're going to keep the peace," said Bush.
"I will work hard to see to it that, at least from our perspective, the UN is able to be a responsible body, and when it says something, it means it, for the sake of peace and for the sake of security, and for the capacity to win the first war of the 21st century, which is the war against terrorism.
"We hope tomorrow the UN will do its job. If not, all of us need to step back and try to figure out how to make the UN work better," he added.
Teresa de Sousa, an analyst of European affairs, said that "If an ultimatum came out of the summit, it was addressed to the Security Council," and especially France, a country that according to the U.S. vision of the world, "is compromising the future of transatlantic unity, the main bond of solidarity between Europe and the United States," by defending ideas that differ from those of Washington.
De Sousa was referring to France's threat to veto any war resolution in the Security Council.
The role played by Durao Barroso, said de Sousa, "was more than that of a simple host," because the chief concern of Portuguese diplomacy was to "keep the Azores Declaration from being read as a gesture of hostility towards the rest of Europe."
But despite the extreme care taken in drafting the document, Bush could not refrain from lashing out at the French government in the news briefing that followed the summit.
Bush said "France showed their cards. After I said what I said, they said they were going to veto anything that held Saddam to account. So cards have been played. And we just have to take an assessment after tomorrow to determine what that card meant."
In the European Union (EU), the United States has the backing -- in descending order of level of commitment -- of Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Denmark.
The other 10 countries, headed by France and Germany, and including Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden, are opposed to a military solution without a green light from the UN.
According to analyst Raul Vaz, "the war began on Sept. 11, 2001 -- first against terrorism, in the 'Afghanistan laboratory', and later with this war, which has already gone too far for its main actors to find a justification for backtracking without losing face."
The Azores summit "was merely a formality" because in the last four months, "Bush failed to convince the world that war was the right way to go, Blair saw the war claim the first casualties in his own political camp, Aznar tried and was able to assume leadership of the European faction in favor of the war, while Durao Barroso couldn't say no," he said.
"What is the option for peace, when Bush states things in the most 'democratic' way possible: that the Security Council must approve the war, because if it doesn't, we will go to war?" former socialist cabinet minister Jose Socrates asked ironically.
A "true summit for peace should at least have included France, Russia and Germany, to debate all of the viewpoints involved, rather than only meeting to agree with the United States," said Socrates.
Monday "is the first day of the rest of the UN's life," because the United States, Britain and Spain "gave the Security Council 24 hours to accept a military intervention in Iraq," said political commentator Antonio Rodr’gues do Carmo.
A similar view was expressed Monday by the director of the Center of Strategic Studies in Lisbon, Alvaro de Vasconcelos, who despite his well-known sympathies for the United States, did not hesitate to recall that "so far, no link has been demonstrated between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein."
The financial markets reported losses after the summit, with the Tokyo stock exchange 1.64 percent down on Monday, Hong Kong 1.63 percent down, Taipei 2.64 percent, Seoul 4.17 percent, and Singapore 1.95 percent.
The leading EU companies showed losses averaging around 2.17 percent by mid-afternoon.
The U.S. stock market, however, soared on hearing the tough talk from Bush.
Portugal's opposition parties unanimously criticized Durao Barroso's participation in what they described as the "declaration of war" on the UN Security Council.
Although the prime minister "merely played the role of a hotel receptionist," Lisbon gave its support to "a declaration of war and an ultimatum, committing Portugal to an escalation of violence that translates into a bad solution for a problem that the international community wants to resolve in a peaceful manner," said a statement by the Socialist Party.
The Communist Party and Left Bloc expressed themselves in similar terms, labelling Durao Barroso a "butler to the big guys" and a "puppet of the United States."
The opposition also warned of the risk that Portugal could become a future target of international terrorism.
The Lajes base, which amounts to a kind of immense aircraft carrier anchored out at sea, is on Terceira, one of the nine islands making up the Azores archipelago, strategically located in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, between the American and European continents.
"Nothing is said about how the Lajes base and the air corridors within Portugal's air space have been yielded, and that for all practical purposes they are already operating as an important contribution to the war effort," sociologist Antonio Barreto said Monday.
It can be unequivocally stated that "Portugal is already a military objective for the adversaries of this effort," having placed the base, the country's only truly important military asset, "at the service of a future war," stressed Barreto, a former cabinet minister who left the Socialist Party and now espouses conservative ideals.
But Portugal's efforts to make it into the international spotlight next to the United States, Britain and Spain were a flop.
CNN, Britain's BBC, Italy's RAI radio and TV network, Spain's TVE and the leading newspapers of Europe and the United States not only failed to mention Durao Barroso, but most of them did not even note that the Azores belong to Portugal.
"The problem is that no one really understood in what position Durao Barroso was participating in the war summit, as the doorman or the butler," said the head of the Bloc of the Left, Miguel Portas.
March 17, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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