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article from FT

>From todays FT (
29th November 1999


IRAQ: UN close to agreement over easing sanctions 
By Carola Hoyos in New York

The United Nations Security Council is close to agreeing a resolution that
loosens UN sanctions against Iraq in return for renewed weapons
inspections and some further steps in disarmament.

The breakthrough after a year of haggling came with Russia's new
willingness to abstain from the Security Council vote, rather than block
the resolution.

US and Russian foreign ministers are likely this week to discuss the terms
of Moscow's abstention, likely to depend on a timetable for easing
sanctions and the details of weapons inspections in Iraq.

One key element to Russia's final decision will be the visit to Moscow
this week by Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister.

The trip gives Mr Aziz one more chance to convince high-level officials,
including Sergey Lavrov, Russia's ambassador to the UN, to push for a more
immediate lifting of sanctions.

Baghdad maintains it has already met its obligations under UN resolutions
that call for Iraq to destroy all of its weapons of mass destruction
before sanctions, imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, can
be lifted.

However, Baghdad has found itself more isolated than ever since Moscow,
its closest ally on the council, decided earlier this month to seek a
compromise to the resolution.

The proposed resolution eliminates the current ceiling on Iraq's oil
exports under the UN's oil-for-food deal once Baghdad again co-operates
with weapons inspectors.

After Iraq fulfils a list of some of its remaining disarmament tasks, the
resolution suspends for a renewable period of time the sanctions on its
imports and exports.

Throughout the suspension, however, independent monitors will seek to
prevent Iraq from purchasing contraband items such as weapons and
ammunition. This is where Russia's interests diverge from most of the rest
of the council.

Russia wants to limit the amount of time Iraq must wait to have its
sanctions suspended and minimise the intrusiveness of the monitoring

Also, Moscow is deeply distrustful that the UN weapons inspections teams,
composed of experts supplied by several different nations, can remain

Russia's scepticism follows last year's allegations that the US used the
UN teams to spy on Baghdad in order to facilitate the removal of Saddam
Hussein, Iraqi president, a US policy divergent from the UN's mandate in

Moscow wants to transfer some of the authorities of the new UN
commissioner in charge of Iraq's disarmament to the Security Council.

The five permanent members of the council this week compromised on that

Included in the resolution is a clause that requires the chief UN weapons
inspector to submit for the council's review the list of disarmament tasks
Iraq must fulfil before sanctions are suspended. Despite the remaining
differences, the UK aims to introduce the resolution even if it passes
without consensus. China and France are expected to follow Russia's lead.

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the US-led bombing campaign that
led to the forced evacuation of UN weapons inspectors from Iraq, diplomats
here think that the timing for an agreement on how to get them back is


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