Sir: Iraq has few friends in the western world and elsewhere, but the latest US missile attack on Baghdad raises an important issue regarding Article 51 (which confers the right of self defence) of the UN Charter. The Clinton administration took its unilateral action specifically as retaliation for the abortive assassination plot against the life of ex-president Bush in Kuwait. Mr Bush was not at the time on US territory, was no longer a member of the US administration and no US territory, military base or personnel were involved. There was no declared pretence of protection of Kuwait territory.
Article 2 of the UN Charter affirms the traditional legal protection of a state's territorial sovereignty and integrity against acts of war and aggression. Excessive liberal interpretation of Article 51 erodes and subverts such protection and, in an era of rapid technological development, may well one day rebound on its exponents.
The latest missile attack on Baghdad has all the appearace of a 'maverick' operation outside Article 51, in flagrant violation of international law.