Global Policy Forum

Iraqis End Two-Day Meet with Annan,


By Robert Holloway

Agence France Presse
February 28, 2001

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf wound up two days of talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday and agreed to a second round of talks within weeks. It was the first high-level contact between the two sides since December 1998, when UN arms inspectors left Iraq for the last time.

UN officials declined to comment on the four working sessions -- held in Annan's 38th-floor office -- until after Annan had briefed the Security Council on Wednesday afternoon. But Sahhaf said the talks had generated a new spirit of dialogue, in Iraq's detailed rejection of any conditions for removing UN sanctions -- in particular the council's demand for renewed arms inspections -- judging from his remarks to reporters.

"We did not discuss any proposals," Sahhaf said. "We discussed issues, and the majority of the time ... the secretary general and his colleagues listened carefully to the detailed presentation presented by us as to how we go forward." After Tuesday morning's session, Sahhaf said he could count on Annan "to provide the Security Council with clear-cut explanations for each of the problems we are facing since 1991."

There was no sign the Iraqis had been willing at this stage to discuss possible compromises. Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, had said Annan and Sahhaf might have a final private meeting after the talks, or that the two sides might issue a joint statement. In the end, neither occurred. Sahhaf remained upbeat, however, saying the talks had been "objective" and had gone smoothly. "We have to continue building this dialogue because it is not an aim in itself," he said. "It is a vehicle for something, namely to find a way out, a solution which we consider reasonable."

Speaking in Arabic, he said he had agreed to a second round of talks and would take back to Baghdad two dates suggested by Annan. Sahhaf said he expected "feedback from the Security Council" through Annan. Asked whether he intended to bring ideas from Baghdad for the second round of talks, he replied, "for sure, we will come back with feedback."

The Iraqis appeared to have used the first round to take a very hard line as an initial bargaining position, but in agreeing to further talks, Annan suggested he did not believe that position was also Baghdad's last word on the matter.

Sahhaf's harshest comments were directed at US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had said he wanted to refine UN sanctions so as to relieve the plight of the Iraqi people while tightening controls on military items. "This is only to deceive public opinion," Sahhaf told reporters. Powell was "trying to play on words in a very awkward way," he said, but the United States was "insisting on continuous sanctions against Iraq."

Sahhaf insisted "Iraq has met all requirements of disarmament" in Security Council Resolution 687," which set out conditions for ending the sanctions imposed after the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. "If Iraq has met those requirements, sanctions should be lifted," he said. On Monday, Sahhaf ruled out letting the UN arms inspectors back into Iraq except in the context of regional disarmament.

He noted Resolution 687 referred to the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery, and said inspectors should start with Israel. "They have the atomic arsenal and all the other arsenals of mass destruction," he said. Asked to comment, Annan told reporters "when it comes to regional security arrangements, it should not be an issue only for the Iraqis."

Such arrangements were "the only way one can assure long-term regional security," he said. "We should think in the long term of security arrangements, of a nuclear-free zone for the region," he added.

More Information on a Turning Point for Iraq
More Information on the Iraq Crisis
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq


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