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Cook's tour will pressure Saddam

Two similar articles from today's papers...

from The Independent, 6th Nov 1998

Cook's tour will pressure Saddam

          By Rupert Cornwell 

          The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, and other
          Foreign Office ministers will be fanning out across
          key Middle East and Gulf countries over the next
          fortnight to persuade them to intensify pressure on
          Saddam Hussein by clamping down on Iraq's
          large-scale smuggling in defiance of international

          The move seems to confirm that for all the
          belligerent talk against Baghdad following the
          Iraqi President's latest decision to end all
          co-operation with United Nations arms
          inspectors, the West does not contemplate using
          military force - at this stage of the crisis at least. 

          Explaining the thinking behind the diplomatic
          offensive yesterday, Mr Cook argued that Iraq
          was making no effort to use the full oil export
          quota of $10bn (6.1bn) allowed it by the UN
          for the purchase of food and medicine. He said
          President Saddam "prefers to smuggle oil out to
          get illegal receipts of currency" to boost pay for
          the Republican Guard, provide a lavish lifestyle
          for his entourage, and pursue the development of
          chemical and biological weapons. 

          Denying that Western sanctions were simply
          producing hardship and deprivation for ordinary
          Iraqis, Mr Cook claimed that President Saddam's
          regime had been exporting maize and wheat even
          as it claimed children were malnourished. On the
          medical side, "Iraq had been importing liposuction
          equipment and silicone breast implants, all the
          while claiming it can't afford to buy medicines". 

          The new gambit comes amid a flurry of activity by
          top United States officials to drum up support for
          Washington's policies. A lightning tour by the
          Defense Secretary, William Cohen, of nine
          Middle Eastern countries culminating in a meeting
          with the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak,
          yesterday, is to be followed by a mission to
          Europe this weekend by President Bill Clinton's
          national security adviser, Sandy Berger. 

          But there are clear indications that key US allies
          in the Gulf have no more stomach for military
          action than last February, when an 11th-hour
          agreement between Saddam and the UN
          Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, averted
          American and British air strikes. 

          The Pentagon last night declared that Mr Cohen
          had held "successful consultations" in the region.
          But Mr Clinton himself could only trot forth the
          hope that "we'll have the support we need for
          whatever decisions we ultimately make". As in
          February, moreover, Russia yesterday signalled
          its opposition to the use of force. 

          Thus the repeat in New York of familiar
          diplomatic manoeuvring at the UN. Last night, the
          Security Council was considering a British-US
          draft resolution, condemning Iraq's latest
          behaviour as a "flagrant violation", and demanding
          immediate and unconditional compliance with
          agreements it had signed. 

          In fact, however, the resolution contains no threat
          of force, and does not go as far as last February's
          which spoke of "the severest consequences" if
          Baghdad did not allow UN inspectors unimpeded
          access to the sites where President Saddam is
          suspected of building his weapons of mass
          destruction. Iraq, however, still insists on a
          clear-cut timetable for the lifting of sanctions
          before it renews co-operation with the inspectors.

          Mr Cook could not specify the extent of the
          smuggling by Iraq, which he said was being
          conducted by sea and across land borders,
          especially via Jordan. But he said "substantial
          sums" were involved. 

          The burden of his argument in Middle Eastern
          capitals this month will be that Western actions
          are not aimed at Arab countries. Strenuously
          though Mr Cook denied it yesterday, a whiff of
          double standards is in the air - with Iraq being
          held to strict UN resolutions while Israel blithely
          ignores them. But it was "grotesque" to compare
          "democratic debate" in Israel to the situation in
          Iraq, he said. 

          President Saddam retained the capacity to build
          chemical and biological weapons, and had
          managed to load a nerve gas weapon into a
          missile warhead. "The evidence is there before us,
          and we cannot walk away. Given his past record,
          he'll use these weapons," Mr Cook said. 


from The Guardian

Cook urges action to halt Saddam's sanctions-busting 

By Ian Black, Diplomatic Editor
Friday November 6, 1998 

Britain is urging an international crackdown on Iraqi
sanctions-busting to prevent any leakage in the United
Nations oil embargo and deny Saddam Hussein the
resources to maintain his brutal regime. 

As the United States continued to rally support in the latest
confrontation over weapons inspections, Robin Cook, the
Foreign Secretary, said he would be working with Iraq's
neighbours and the UN to "cut the money that keeps this
appalling regime in office".

President Bill Clinton said he had the support of European
allies and sent his national security adviser, Sandy Berger,
to consult them, while the US defence secretary, William
Cohen, left Oman and flew to the United Arab Emirates.

Signalling a British attempt to seize the initiative, Mr Cook is
talking to all European Union foreign ministers today and
planning to visit the Gulf, as is his junior minister, Derek
Fatchett, and George Robertson, the defence secretary.

"We don't want to take military action," Mr Cook said.
"What we have said is that all options are open."

He insisted that the UN Security Council was more united
than it had been earlier this year, when France, Russia and
China expressed alarm over possible air strikes. But he
indicated that making the seven-year oil embargo more
effective might be the right approach in the face of likely
reluctance to use military action. "That seems a very logical
way if people are unhappy about the use of force," Mr
Cook said.

He attacked the "warped priorities of a brutal regime" which
imported liposuction surgery equipment and silicon breast
implants but then claimed that sanctions meant it could not
afford antibiotics.

"There is quite significant smuggling round the region," he
said. "If we can get a handle on that it will make it more
difficult for Saddam Hussein to maintain his payments to the
Republican Guard, who have not gone short in a period
when he has been parading the bodies of dead children."

Iran, Turkey and the Gulf states would all need to
co-operate if the embargo, linked to the destruction of
Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, is to have
a greater impact on the regime. Oil is Bahgdad's best
foreign currency earner, with smuggling valued at $500
million ( 300 million) this year.

Sanctions-busting is conducted via Turkey and Iran, under
an agreement whereby Iraqi oil is transported through
Iranian waters and sold on the international market in
Dubai. This means the Iraqis can avoid the British and
United States naval patrols in the Gulf.

The UN allows Iraq to export $5.2 billion of oil every six
months, but legal exports fall far short of this. Baghdad
prefers unregistered receipts, so proceeds do not have to
be used to buy medicine and humanitarian supplies.

Both the US and Britain stress that Iraq is breaching an
agreement not just with the Security Council, but with the
entire UN, following a memorandum of understanding
signed with the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

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