Global Policy Forum

Protests Across Iraq Against New UN Resolution

Agence France-Presse
December 20, 1999

Baghdad - Street protests have spread across Iraq against a new UN resolution covering sanctions and arms inspections, but the Baghdad regime had still not announced its official position on Monday. From the northern town of Tikrit to the southern city of Basra, thousands of demonstrators have poured out to denounce resolution 1284 as "an attempt to perpetuate the embargo" in force since 1990. They also voiced their support for the government of President Saddam Hussein, which has been in power for two decades, newspapers reported.

The demonstrations were originally organised to mark the first anniversary of Operation Desert Fox, the US-British air war on Iraq, but they quickly transformed into protests against the latest move by the United Nations. Iraqi television on Sunday night broadcast images from around the country showing marches during which men, women, students, farmers and tribal members held up giant portraits of Saddam and vowed to "defend Iraq's sovereignty." The wave of demonstrations against the resolutions began in Baghdad with some 10,000 Iraqis screaming their defiance in a march through the capital on Saturday.

But despite this the regime has yet to announce an official position on the resolution, which requires Iraq's cooperation with a new UN arms body, UNMOVIC, before crippling sanctions are temporarily lifted. Iraq is demanding an unconditional lifting of sanctions, because it says it has completely disarmed -- the original requirement for an end to the embargo.

Iraq's representative to the Arab League, Sultan al-Shawi, said Sunday that Baghdad would never allow weapons inspectors to return to Iraq after they fled the country just hours before the start of the Desert Fox air war. "Iraq will not repeat the bitter experience" of the former UN weapons inspection body, UNSCOM, Shawi told reporters, reiterating Iraq's allegations that previous teams of inspectors spied for the United States and Israel. But his comments were toned down in the state-controlled Iraqi press, which has rejected the resolution outright.

The most senior Iraqi official to comment on the resolution was Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, who on Saturday described it as "treacherous" and a "trick", without explicitly rejecting it. "Iraq is sticking to its legal position. It is ready to accept all consequences of its defence of its sovereignty and its legitimate rights," he said.

The ruling Baath party's Ath-Thawra daily said Monday that the resolution was "stillborn because three permanent Security Council members abstained from the vote, and the United Nations needs Iraq's agreement and it will not get it." The resolution was approved by 11-0 with abstentions from permament council members China, France and Russia and non-permanent member Malaysia.

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