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Re: Articles from the Guardian (16th June).

I'll believe it when I see it.



Guardian, 16th June.

Iraq sanctions could be 'lifted in months' 

By Ian Black, Diplomatic Editor

Iraq's hopes for the lifting of sanctions received a rare boost yesterday
when the United Nations
said its files on President Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological
arsenal could be closed within
months if he resolved outstanding disarmament issues. 

In his most upbeat assessment, Richard Butler, the head of the UN special
weapons commission
Unscom, said a new work schedule agreed with the Iraqi authorities could
bring verification by
August that the country had scrapped its banned weapons of mass

"The light at the end of the tunnel is today more visible than it has been
for a very long time," the
Australian diplomat told reporters at the end of talks in Baghdad with
Iraq's deputy prime minister,
Tariq Aziz. But the United States and Britain, the chief hawks on the
issue, both insisted that big
gaps remained in Iraq's disclosures.

Under the ceasefire resolutions that ended the Gulf war following Iraq's
invasion of Kuwait in 1990,
Unscom has to certify that the disarmament programme has been completed
before the UN's key oil
embargo can be lifted.

Iraq blames the sanctions for the deaths of more than one million people,
the malnutrition of a
generation, and the impoverishment of a once-wealthy country.

Washington and London, isolated on the UN Security Council, accuse
President Saddam of
obstructing Unscom's work to conceal his weapons, and of cynically
exploiting his people's
suffering to generate pressure for the lifting of sanctions.

Mr Butler, who is to report back to the council next week, said he hoped
that when he returned to
Baghdad in August most outstanding issues would have been wrapped up, and
he could report in
October that Iraq had met its obligations.

"Whether or not that proves to be the case will depend on the quality of
the work that is done in the
next two months," he said.

His statement clearly sought to shift the onus on the Iraqis, but
diplomats said they would remain
sceptical about Baghdad's intentions until they saw concrete evidence of a
different mood.

"The devil is going to be in the detail of this," one US official warned.
"We will have to look very
closely at what they've agreed to. The danger is the Iraqis will
co-operate now and then say in
October they expect sanctions to go. We certainly hope Butler's visit has
not left that impression."

"We've been here before so we are sceptical," a Foreign Office diplomat

Twice in the past year Iraq has pulled back from the brink of military
confrontation with US-led
forces, conscious each time that it is getting harder for Washington and
London to maintain the
status quo.

In March, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, brokered an 11th-hour deal
that averted US-led
air strikes after Iraq banned Unscom access to presidential palaces and
other sites. But there has
been little sign of a breakthrough since.

Weapons inspectors have already uncovered and eliminated Scud missiles,
launchers, thousands of
litres of chemical weapon agents and a large biological weapons plant for
producing anthrax and
botulinium toxin.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has told the Security Council that
Iraq's nuclear weapons
programme has been "for all practical purposes, destroyed, removed or
rendered harmless".

Iraq insists it has no banned weapons left. But Unscom has reported
regularly the "full, final and
complete disclosures" Baghdad is required to give have been deficient.

Until 1995 Iraq denied it had an offensive biological weapons programme.
It then claimed the
programme had been destroyed in 1991. But in March this year the UN
discovered a 1994 document
indicating the production of equipment for Iraq's main biological warfare

If Unscom does give Iraq a clean bill of health, and the Security Council
endorses such a report, it
would trigger the lifting of the oil embargo, but would not automatically
end wider trade sanctions or
export controls.

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