War can be averted, says Pahad

Published Feb 12, 2003


Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad is returning to South Africa confident a war against Iraq "can be averted" as preparations for war gain pace.

Pahad left last Friday to visit Iraq with instructions to do everything he could to prevent a war against Iraq.

He met both Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz.

Pahad also held talks with President Saddam Hussein, to whom he gave a letter from President Thabo Mbeki stating South Africa would continue "supporting global efforts resisting war until a peaceful solution is achieved".

"As President Mbeki's special envoy leaves Baghdad this evening, he was confident that, as a country, we did not simply fold our arms in a looming human disaster, but did everything possible to avert war. The deputy minister was also pleased with the manner in which, since our arrival, the Iraqi government had co-operated with the inspectors on their outstanding concerns," said the foreign affairs department.

Pahad was confident that peace would be given a chance and that a war could be averted, said the department.

Pahad was representing South Africa, the Non-Aligned Movement countries and the African Union.

Pahad will arrive in South Africa in time for Mbeki's state-of-the-nation address on Friday. Later on the same day, chief United Nations inspector Hans Blix will present his report to the UN Security Council on the progress of inspections in Iraq.

Blix's report will be closely scrutinised for anything that might trigger a US-led war against Iraq. On Saturday, the global day of action against war in Iraq, South Africa will be joining other countries in staging protest actions against war in its major cities.

Mbeki has warned that a war against Iraq would be "disastrous" for everyone. He said a war would have a negative impact on the Middle East and Iraq and the oil price could rise, setting back the economic development of Africa.

Mbeki said Iraq should be disarmed peacefully and the inspectors should be given more time to do their work.

Meanwhile, anti-war campaigners on Tuesday targeted an American oil company in Johannesburg.

About 300 members of the Anti-War Coalition, who are opposed to the expected war against Iraq, on Tuesday protested outside the offices of ExxonMobil in Randjiesfontein, in Midrand, reports our correspondent in Johannesburg. - Political Bureau

Related Topics: