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Iraq news

Russia Wants Iraq Inspections Over

                  By Robert H. Reid
                  Associated Press Writer
                  Friday, April 24, 1998; 8:02 p.m. EDT

                  UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Russia is urging an end to
                  wide-ranging inspections of Iraq's suspected nuclear
                  facilities, claiming there's no evidence that the
                  Mideast nation was still trying to build nuclear

                  Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov on Friday confirmed
                  circulating such a proposal among the 15 Security
                  Council members. But Lavrov said he would not insist on
                  immediate action when the council meets Monday to
                  review the 7-year-old economic sanctions against Iraq.

                  ``I'm sure we are not going to table it,'' Lavrov said
                  after consulting throughout the day with other council
                  ambassadors. ``We submitted it only yesterday, and ...
                  we want others to have time to react.''

                  Diplomats said the Russians wanted to try to win over
                  the Americans and the British before pushing for a
                  decision. The diplomats, speaking on condition of
                  anonymity, said consultations would continue through
                  the weekend.

                  In offering the proposal, the Russians cited a report
                  this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency
                  that says it found no indication that Iraq was still
                  trying to construct nuclear arms.

                  Lavrov said ``it is time for the council to recognize''
                  the findings of the latest IAEA report. Lavrov said he
                  would make this argument during Monday's council
                  meeting even if he did not submit a formal resolution.

                  If approved, the Russian proposal would not end all
                  international surveillance of Iraq's nuclear research
                  programs. But it would shift to ``passive monitoring''
                  of known Iraqi research facilities.

                  It would sharply curtail the wide-ranging
                  investigations of suspected clandestine nuclear
                  research facilities, which the IAEA has carried out
                  since 1991 along with the U.N. Special Commission,
                  which is looking for banned long-range missiles and
                  biological and chemical weapons.

                  Such a resolution, if approved, would have no effect on
                  the commission's inspections for missiles, chemical and
                  biological weapons.

                  Both the commission and the IAEA must certify that Iraq
                  has dismantled all proscribed weapons before the
                  Security Council will lift economic sanctions imposed
                  in 1990 after President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

                  Last week, the executive chairman of the U.N. Special
                  Commission, Richard Butler, reported it had made
                  ``virtually no progress'' over the last six months in
                  determining whether Iraq is still holding long-range
                  missiles and chemical and biological weapons.

                  Diplomats said the United States was the major
                  stumbling block.

                  In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin
                  said Iraq must first provide more information about
                  previous efforts to conceal its secret nuclear research

                  ``Clearly, there has been progress in the area of
                  understanding what Iraq did, and what it is now unable
                  to do in the nuclear area,'' Rubin said. ``But ... Iraq
                  has to answer questions that it has refused to answer
                  about this area as well; namely in the area of

                  As a permanent council member, Washington could veto
                  the Russian proposal, although the Americans would
                  prefer not to do so to avoid appearing isolated on the
                  sensitive Iraq issue.

                  In February, the United States and Britain backed off a
                  threat to bomb Iraq after Secretary-General Kofi Annan
                  convinced the Iraqi government to open all sites,
                  including presidential palaces, to U.N. inspectors.

                  The United States failed to win broad support among the
                  Arabs and others for military action against Iraq.

                  On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson told a
                  House committee in Washington that he expected Iraq and
                  its supporters to mount an effort to lift the sanctions
                  next week. He also said the United States would oppose
                  any efforts to weaken the resolution's disarmament

                  But diplomats say there is considerable support within
                  the 15-member council for acknowledging Iraqi progress
                  in the nuclear field.

                  British Ambassador John Weston said his government did
                  not oppose acknowledging progress but considered the
                  Russian proposal ``unbalanced.''

                  In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Yves
                  Doutriaux said Iraqi progress in the nuclear area
                  ``seems clearly very significant'' and it seemed time
                  to end the inspections and shift to long-term

                            Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

                 Iraq Wants U.N. Sanctions Lifted

                  By Robert H. Reid
                  Associated Press Writer
                  Thursday, April 23, 1998; 7:50 p.m. EDT

                  UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Iraq demanded Thursday that the
                  United Nations end its crippling trade embargo,
                  accusing U.N. arms inspectors of spreading ``fallacies
                  and lies'' about its weapons program.

                  In Washington, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said
                  the Clinton administration has ``seen insufficient
                  grounds'' to lift the sanctions and said Iraq must
                  comply ``with a whole host'' of requirements before the
                  embargo is removed.

                  Bill Richardson, the U.S. ambassador to the United
                  Nations, predicted Iraq and its supporters would mount
                  an effort to lift the sanctions when the Security
                  Council holds its six-month review of Iraqi sanctions

                  ``We will oppose it on the grounds that they're not
                  fully complying with Security Council resolutions,''
                  Richardson told a House committee, saying the United
                  States would also oppose any efforts to weaken the
                  resolution's disarmament provisions.

                  U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity,
                  said Russia may offer a resolution to effectively
                  declare Iraq had complied with U.N. orders to dismantle
                  its nuclear weapons program.

                  The Monday review will be the first since U.N.
                  Secretary-General Kofi Annan signed an agreement with
                  the Iraqis in February to allow inspectors to visit
                  Saddam's eight presidential compounds.

                  Such reviews are conducted behind closed doors. U.N.
                  sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the
                  council agreed to a Russian request to allow Iraq's
                  foreign minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, to meet
                  informally with all 15 council members after the review
                  to put Baghdad's case directly to them.

                  Diplomatic sources said the Russians hope the meeting
                  will generate greater opposition within the council to
                  the hard-line U.S. and British positions against Iraq.

                  Iraq's demand was contained in a 22-page letter sent by
                  Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to Annan and the
                  council president, Ambassador Hisashi Owada of Japan.

                  The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The
                  Associated Press, was in response to the latest
                  six-month report by the U.N. Special Commission, which
                  found that ``virtually no progress'' had been made in
                  verifying whether Iraq has destroyed banned weapons.

                  That is the main condition for the Security Council to
                  lift crippling economic sanctions imposed on Iraq in
                  1990 after President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

                  In his report, submitted to the council last Friday,
                  chief U.N. inspector Richard Butler said major gaps in
                  knowledge of key Iraqi weapons programs remain,
                  especially about biological weaponry.

                  ``Weapons research into other systems ... is
                  inadequately described (by the Iraqis),'' Butler said.
                  ``This lack of candor raises the possibility of
                  research or development of undisclosed systems.''

                  In his response, Aziz claimed the commission report
                  ``contains a large volume of tremendous and flagrant
                  fallacies and lies ... (aimed at) justifying the
                  continuation of the unjust embargo.''

                  ``It is evident that there is an attack of a political
                  nature, rather than a technical or scientific one,''
                  Aziz said. He called on the council to put an end to
                  ``the endless, fruitless and provocative'' inspections
                  which are directed ``at collecting intelligence
                  information for the United States of America.''

                  U.N. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity,
                  said the letter contained mostly argumentation rather
                  than offering evidence to counter the commission's

                  Iraq's refusal to open those sites prompted the United
                  States and Britain to send thousands of troops, planes
                  and aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf and threaten
                  air strikes. The threat was reduced by the Annan

                            Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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