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Germany Urges International Help for Iraq's Civilian Population - 2003-03-26

Germany's minister for foreign affairs, Joschka Fischer, says his country is concerned about a humanitarian disaster in Iraq. In a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Commission he said now is the time to consider steps to help the people of Iraq.

Foreign minister Fischer, told the Human Rights Commission that the consequences and effects of the war being waged in Iraq were of great concern to people in Germany and all of Europe.

"In our opinion, there would have been another way to realize the demands of the international community," said Mr. Fischer. "There would have been another possibility, the way of peaceful disarmament by the U.N. weapons inspectors. But this is not the time to apportion blame. We must now look to the future. The community of states is called upon to respond to these dramatic events and, indeed, more so than ever before."

But Mr. Fischer said, now that war has begun, the international community should make every effort to ease the plight of Iraq's civilian population.

Mr. Fischer reminded the delegates to the human rights commission that Iraq should not distract attention from developments in other parts of the world. He said the people of North Korea were being deprived of crucial basic rights. He also accused China of holding political prisoners and of discriminating against religious and ethnic minorities.

He voiced concern about the human rights situation in Chechnya.

"On the one hand the acts of terrorism committed by the Chechen rebels must be clearly condemned. On the other hand, the government in Moscow must respect human rights and the basic principles of humanitarian law in its legitimate fight against terrorism," Mr. Fischer emphasized. "We expect our Russian partners to do justice to their responsibilities in the North Caucasus, to prevent future human rights violations and to prosecute those who have committed them in the past."

Joschka Fischer emphasized that the United Nations must not be sidelined. He told the delegates no other institution could substitute for the peacekeeping role played by the United Nations.