Concessions Seen Key to UN Resolution


By Elizabeth Neuffer

Boston Globe
October 10, 2002

As United Nations diplomats wrangle over the terms of a new, tough Security Council resolution aimed at forcing Saddam Hussein to disarm, it will be the behind-the-scenes horsetrading - as much as the mandate's fine print - that will make or break any final UN deal.

Publicly, diplomats remain divided: whether to have one resolution or two, whether to threaten Iraq with military force directly or with unspecified consequences later. Privately, however, what's also at stake is what concessions Washington is willing to grant to get its allies on board.

China wants the assurance the US will overlook its actions in Tibet and downplay the importance of Taiwan. Russia has its eye on billions of dollars in as yet-unrealized oil deals in Iraq, which has the world's second-largest known oil reserves. And France, which also has vested interests in Iraq's lucrative oil fields, doesn't want to give the United States a blank check for military force against Iraq.

''Countries are trying to make it clear - on an initiative on which they have grave misgivings - that Washington has to realize they will accumulate brownie points and be prepared to accommodate them later,'' said David Malone, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN and president of the International Peace Academy in New York.

Nowhere in the 15-member Security Council is the trading more fast and furious than among its five permanent members. Each wields a veto that can block any UN plan. But if the United States and Britain, spearheading the drive for the resolution, can capture the votes of the other three permanent members - France, China, and Russia - the measure is all but guaranteed. Only nine votes are needed for passage, and the other rotating member countries often follow the lead of the permanent five.

Some consensus has emerged: Diplomats appear to agree that a new UN resolution is needed before UN weapons inspectors return to Iraq to hunt for supposed weapons of mass destruction. But sharp differences remain over the mandate's wording.

The United States and Britain support a measure granting UN inspectors wide-ranging powers to seek weapons of mass destruction and threatening ''all necessary means'' should Iraq fail to comply. France, by contrast, supports two resolutions: one, laying out stricter terms governing UN weapons inspection, and another considering ''any measure'' should Iraq fail to comply.

The French draft also refers to Iraq's ''sovereign and territorial integrity'' - a phrase that is anathema to the Americans because it was used by the Iraqis in the past to block access by weapons inspectors to presidential palaces. But it is a phrase that works well with the Chinese, who are troubled by the precedent that sanctioning military action against Iraq might create in the absence of a state of war.

China, with its own history of meddling by foreign powers, typically abstains from UN measures authorizing peacekeeping or military intervention overseas. On Iraq, however, China has indicated it might support the French two-step plan. Although that would fall short of endorsing the US-British approach, it could place China in the camp of those willing to support a compromise resolution.

That outcome may well be the product of months of vigorous wooing by the Bush administration. China's president, Jiang Zemin, was invited to visit President Bush at his Texas ranch. Questioning China's human rights violations appears to have dropped to the bottom of Washington's agenda. The Bush administration has soft-pedaled the issue of Taiwan, considered a breakaway country by the Chinese.

And the State Department, responding to Beijing's requests, recently added the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Muslim group in China, to its list of terrorist organizations.

''There's been an 180-degree shift,'' said Elizabeth Economy, a China specialist at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. ''I think this is all about Iraq.'' Oil is also a concern for China, which has signed a deal that hinges on Iraq's future: in 1997, the China National Petroleum Corp. agreed to a production-sharing deal for a key Iraqi oil field.

Oil concerns in Iraq, analysts say, are also behind Russia's actions, which openly endorsed the French plan on Tuesday, saying the US proposal has ''knowingly unfillable demands.''

That signaled the feverish bargaining between Moscow and Washington - over the shape of a new UN resolution as well as diplomatic and commercial deals.

''Our policy is very pragmatic, we are ready for any serious question that takes into account the interests of Russia,'' said Vikto Kuvaldin of the Gorbachev Fund in Moscow. ''We are interested in the question of debt, of oil concessions.''

High on the list of Russian demands will be a guarantee from Washington that Iraq will repay some $8 billion in Soviet-era loans if Hussein is removed from power, analysts say. Also critical will be assurances that Russian oil companies - with development deals pending in southern and western Iraq - still have access to its vast oil fields. Russia, like a dozen or so other nations, struck oil deals with Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, but has not proceded further because of UN economic sanctions restricting trade with Hussein's regime.

Those sanctions will not be lifted until after UN weapons inspectors identify and supervise the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. For Russia, the money at stake is large: In 1997, for example, the Russian oil company, LUKOIL - 14 percent government-owned - struck a $3.5 billion 23-year deal to rehabilitate Iraqi oil fields in southern Iraq. Last year, Russian-Belarus oil company Slavneft signed a $52 million services contract on an oil field.

''We have interests in the oil sector of the Iraqi economy,'' Mikhail Margelov, a Putin adviser and chairman of the international affairs committee of the Federation Council, said last weekend.

But economic concessions aren't all Moscow is worried about. They also seek assurances that the United States might look the other way should Russia tackle Chechen terrorists in Georgia.

More Articles on the Threat of US War Against Iraq
More Information on the Iraq Crisis
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.