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I'll believe it when I see it. Gabriel. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ 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 destruction. "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 said. 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 plant. 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. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html