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U.N. deal means little to sanctions-hit Iraq




24 February 1998
 
BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan's peacemaking deal on U.N. arms inspections produced
relief but no jubilation among ordinary Iraqis Monday. 

The Iraqi government has hailed the deal as a "victory over evil,"
but many Baghdad residents said they would reserve rejoicing for
the day they saw the back of crippling U.N. economic sanctions
imposed for Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. 

Shopkeepers and customers clustered round television sets for a
live broadcast of Monday's news conference by Annan and
Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz. For many it was the first news
of the deal, previously ignored by Iraqi media. 

"All I want is for sanctions to be lifted. I was hoping for a final
solution," said Majed Hassan, 31, in his hardware shop. "They
should have set conditions, a time limit for lifting the sanctions." 

Hassan Faraj, another shopkeeper, said, "Nothing has changed for
us. They (inspectors) will go back to searching. Even if they had
searched every house and every inch of the country they should
have finished in seven years. But they are intentionally delaying the
lifting of the sanctions." 

Some Iraqis voiced skepticism that Annan's deal would work,
saying they believed the United States would attack anyway. 
"The Americans will do whatever they want. Nobody can deter
them. They are immoral. Wait and see, it's only a matter of days or
months and the Americans will repeat their comedy," said former
factory owner Jameel Abdel Saheb. 

He said he had had to sell his two factories, where he once
employed more than 100 workers, to survive the U.N. trade
embargo. "I was a rich man and now I'm poor," he added. 

"America loves war. If it were up to America, the sanctions would
never be lifted," said shopkeeper Saad Abdel Khaleq. 
A common view was that the United States might accept Annan's
deal under pressure from other Security Council members but
would find other pretexts to sabotage it later. 

"Everything is possible. They might find any reason to block it. For
seven years they have been looking for any pretext to obstruct,
sabotage and create a crisis in order to set harsher conditions on
Iraq," Abdel Saheb said. 

"The United States will keep its grip on Baghdad. They will not lift
the sanctions until they make sure that Iraq is finished. They want
Iraq to go backwards not only seven years but 20 years. They
want a weak Iraq," Hassan said. 

A few people reckoned the agreement could mean their ordeal
was nearing an end. 

"We were hoping for such an accord. We want peace. We don't
want war. We want to have work, to get back to business," said
Abdel-Wahab Ahmed, who owns a spare parts shop. 

Ahmed Farah said seven years of sanctions were more than
enough. "We have shortages in many essential goods," he said as
he sold shoes in al-Rashid street. 

For all their doubts about U.S. intentions, most Iraqis said they
respected Annan as a man trying to end their plight. 

"Kofi Annan is a peacemaker. He does not take orders from
America. He has good will and wishes as well," said a customer
who gave his name only as Faysal. 


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