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Sanctions to be 'eased'? Iraq to accept?

Following are two articles on recent Security Council developments: 1) from
today's Washington Post front page, and 2) from the Middle East Times
(Nov.12, 1999).
U.N. Nears Pact on Iraq Inspections
Security Council May Ease Sanctions
By John Lancaster and Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 16, 1999; Page A01 

Nearly a year after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ejected international arms
inspectors from his country, members of the U.N. Security Council are
nearing agreement on a resolution that could lead to the resumption of
inspections aimed at preventing Baghdad from acquiring illegal weapons, U.S.
and allied officials said yesterday.

The Clinton administration has been trying for months to find a formula
under which Saddam Hussein would allow the inspectors to return to Iraq. If
the Iraqis cooperate with the inspectors, the Security Council then would
suspend the nine-year-old trade sanctions that have shattered the Iraqi
economy and barred the country from using its oil revenue to purchase
anything other than food and humanitarian supplies.

Russia and France had pushed competing proposals that would be more lenient
in interpreting Iraq's disarmament obligations under the cease-fire that
ended the 1991 Persian Gulf War. As permanent members of the U.N. Security
Council--along with the United States, Britain and China--Russia and France
have the power to veto any plan that is not to their liking.

After concessions from the United States, however, France in recent weeks
has signaled its willingness to accept the American-backed proposal.
Originally floated by Britain and the Netherlands, the plan envisions
suspending--but not lifting--sanctions after an unspecified period of Iraqi
compliance. The Security Council would have to vote to continue the
suspension every 100 days, so the United States would be able to reimpose
sanctions unilaterally by vetoing a continued suspension.

U.S. officials say they expect Russia to follow France's lead rather than
risk being isolated on the council. China, which has not played a major role
in the discussions, traditionally has followed Russia's guidance on matters
relating to Iraq.

"We've broken through the shell," said a senior State Department official in
discussing the negotiations, which resume today in New York among the five
permanent council members. The official acknowledged, however, that success
is not yet assured. Nor is it clear that the resolution would be accepted by
Saddam Hussein, who thus far has refused to allow the resumption of U.N.
weapons inspections.

U.S. officials say that the Iraqi leader has a pattern of reversing course
when confronted with unanimity on the Security Council. Given the
alternative--continued sanctions with no hope of reprieve--he is likely to
do the same in this case, they believe.

Until last fall, Iraq had been subject to inspections and monitoring by the
U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM, which was charged with rooting out and
destroying Iraq's programs to develop nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons. Saddam Hussein's decision to expel the inspectors followed a series
of confrontations over giving them access to sensitive government sites and
led to several days of U.S. cruise missile attacks.

Under the so-called Anglo-Dutch proposal favored by the Clinton
administration, Iraq would have to permit the return of an inspection team
and demonstrate its willingness to disarm before sanctions could be
suspended. Russia, by contrast, had argued for a far more lenient standard
that essentially would have suspended the sanctions as soon as inspections

In either case, Iraqi oil revenue would remain under U.N. control and could
not be used to purchase military or "dual-use" equipment that might have
military as well as civilian purposes. Iraq would, however, be able to use
its oil revenue for civilian imports, subject to U.N. approval.

U.S. officials say the plan satisfies the key American objectives of
maintaining outside control over Iraqi oil revenue, restoring the inspection
program and providing for the humanitarian needs of Iraq's civilians--a
matter of enormous concern among Washington's allies in the Arab world.

"The outcome potentially before us would do those things in a way that meets
our national interest," the senior official said.

A breakthrough on a Security Council resolution also would advance the U.S.
goal of patching up the faltering international coalition that forced Iraq
to withdraw from Kuwait in the Gulf War.

The evolving French position was ascribed by State Department officials to
growing anxiety in Paris about Iraq's potential to resume its outlawed
weapons programs. But diplomats involved in the negotiations also said the
United States and Britain offered significant concessions to win French and
Russian support.

The current version of the resolution, for example, would permit foreign
companies--meaning French and Russian companies--to invest in the Iraqi oil
sector. It also would lift the cap on Iraqi oil production, currently set at
$5.2 billion for six months.

"We could look at lifting the oil ceiling as long as we don't give Saddam
Hussein free rein over the money," said one diplomat involved in the
discussions. "That satisfies the likes of the French and the Russians
because they can say to the Iraqis, 'Look, we've won this.' " 

 Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

New UN plan ignores Iraq
Special to the Middle East Times 
The permanent members of the UN Security Council are forging ahead on a
resolution to temporarily suspend sanctions in exchange for Iraqi compliance
with weapons inspections despite Iraq's outright rejection of the plan. 
Against a backdrop of criticism by the Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the
US was holding up the import of $500 million of humanitarian aid and calls
for an end to sanctions by the UN humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad,
negotiations on Iraq resumed at UN headquarters last week. 
Watching from the sidelines, the Iraqi government denounced the latest
discussions by ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security
Council who gathered in New York November 5. 
"The tricks which are being made there are not acceptable," said Iraqi
Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz. 
"There is no change in the proposals which are being made and we are
standing firm against these maneuvers... they are not going to reach a
reasonable conclusion to the Iraqi peoples' tragedy," Aziz added. His
comments came during last week's visit of British MP George Galloway to
Baghdad to raise support for a termination of sanctions. 
In recent months, there have been several proposals put forward on how to
alleviate sanctions while getting Iraq to allow UN inspectors to resume
weapons monitoring. 
However, critics argue that the United States isn't interested in seeing the
sanctions lifted until Saddam Hussein is toppled and so the current talks
are little more than smoke screen. 
Muhammad Said Al Sayed, deputy director of the government-backed Al Ahram
Center for Political and Strategic studies, says that the US continues to
see Iraq as a threat and will continue its harsh treatment of the country
unless there is a change in leadership. 
"It is clear the US will torpedo any lifting of sanctions and that the US'
containment policy will continue until Saddam Hussein is toppled," Sayed
This conclusion falls in line with US Vice-President and presidential
candidate Al Gore's recent statements last week to the annual Arab-American
Institute's National Leadership conference. 
Speaking via satellite hook-up, Gore said the United States wanted friendly
relations with Iraq "as soon as Iraq has a government worthy of its people."

Due to the American and British hard-line stance against Saddam Hussein and
his government, negotiations at the Security Council continue at a snail's
pace and with little concrete progress. 
A new British draft has been at the center of the latest talks. The details
of the proposal are still being hammered out, but it is likely the draft
draws on a previous proposal supported by the US and Britain. That proposal
would have raised the ceiling for the oil-for-food program, currently at
$5.26 billion, once a new arms inspection team is set up. A suspension of
import and export sanctions would have been lifted following Iraq's
cooperation in answering several key questions on its weapons of mass
destruction to be posed by the chief arms inspector. The suspension of the
sanctions would have to be renewed at periodic intervals by the Security
No consensus has been reached on the plan, with the main sticking points
centering around Iraq's degree of compliance with weapons inspections and
the speed and extent of the easing of sanctions. 
Russia has called for an immediate and indefinite suspension of sanctions
once an inspection agency is in place. China appears to be supportive of
this plan. 
At previous talks in September, the British and Dutch proposed a suspension
of the embargo on exports only for a renewable period of 120 days once
Baghdad allows arms inspections. France had suggested a 100-day renewable
suspension on all sanctions if arms inspectors were allowed into the country
while maintaining strict control on Iraq's finances. In recent weeks,
however, France has shifted its support to the current US and British
Baghdad has rejected all of the proposals. 
"They are saying they might suspend sanctions but Iraq has to accept a long
list of new conditions," Foreign Minister Muhammad Said Al Sahaf told
reporters in Geneva. 
Iraq's official newspaper Al Thawra denounced Iraq's lack of involvement on
the proposals and concluded that the resolution will have little affect. 
"During the past months when the draft resolution was being discussed, it
escaped the mind of the Council to invite an Iraqi official to consult or be
informed of what is going on," it said in an editorial. 
Despite Iraq's unwavering opposition to the proposals, US envoy Richard
Holbrooke expressed optimism at the current pace of progress. 
He said the Security Council was "close to a solution" and said Washington
was determined to make sure that "Saddam cannot get the sanctions
permanently suspended through various devices and tricks." 
Britain's ambassador to the UN was a bit more cautious in his assessment of
the negotiations and said the lack of agreement on how to deal with Iraq may
result in failure. 
"We may fail in the end to get a resolution but I think we are now on track
to have a very serious go at it. This was a preparatory meeting to keep the
process going," he said after the talks. 
Amira Elghawaby

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