Global Policy Forum

UN Council Still Far Apart on Iraq


By Nicole Winfield

Associated Press
May 11, 1999

United Nations - Despite weeks of negotiations and warnings that inaction will only make matters worse, the Security Council appears to have made little headway in forging an agreement on a new policy towards Iraq. Since December's U.S.-British airstrikes, sporadic bombing of targets in Iraq has continued and Baghdad's goal of getting the council to lift the economic sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait is still a long way off.

While some council members regularly express concern that Iraq's weapons programs are not being monitored - and U.N. weapons inspectors are barred from returning to Baghdad - major differences remain on how to resume oversight of Iraq's disarmament. Even a new position paper circulated last week by Canada has been largely dismissed by the United States and Russia - the two countries most at odds over the issue, diplomats said.

In an effort to get Iraqi support for renewed arms oversight, Russia, supported by France and China, has offered a resolution that would lift the U.N. oil embargo on Iraq once a system to monitor Iraq's weapons programs is in place. Washington remains adamant, however, that Iraq must be completely be disarmed before the embargo is lifted. Iraq argues that its banned weapons have already been eliminated.

A resolution from Britain and the Netherlands reflects the U.S. position, but includes improvements to the U.N. humanitarian program to help Iraqi civilians hurt by eight years of sanctions. U.S. officials say they still can't agree to that resolution.

Both Russia and Britain have held extensive talks in recent days, and are expected to offer amended competing resolutions in the near future.

In a sign of how far apart the two camps remain, the council isn't expected to formally discuss Iraq until May 21, the day U.N. officials are scheduled to brief members on the "oil-for-food'' program that lets Iraq sell limited amounts of oil to buy humanitarian goods for its people.

Russia's amended proposal is expected to suggest the possible suspension of sanctions, one diplomat said. Canada's position paper follows Russia's resolution by calling for foreign investment in Iraq once an arms monitoring system is operational.

Canada also endorsed the recommendation of a disarmament panel set up by the Security Council to create a new U.N. arms inspection agency, continuing the work of the U.N. Special Commission, known as UNSCOM. UNSCOM has attempted since 1991 to account for and destroy Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction as a prerequisite for lifting U.N. sanctions.

Diplomats are under pressure to make a decision soon.

Celso Amorim, Brazil's U.N. ambassador, warned the Security Council last month that the absence of weapons inspectors "was seen as substantially increasing the risk that Iraq might try to reconstitute its proscribed weapons programs.''

More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq

More Information on the Iraq Crisis


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