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>From todays FT (email@example.com) 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 system. Also, Moscow is deeply distrustful that the UN weapons inspections teams, composed of experts supplied by several different nations, can remain neutral. 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 Iraq. 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 point. 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 perfect. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi