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From today's Times

The following appeared in today's Times. You can e-mail your letters to
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The Times

Sanctions on Iraq ‘could go in six months’


BRITAIN has extended an olive branch to President Saddam Hussein, promising
to lift sanctions “within six months” and to help Iraq to reintegrate into
the international community if Baghdad allows UN weapons inspectors back
into the country.
In a move that could cause serious friction with the United States, which is
working for the overthrow of the Saddam regime, Peter Hain, the Foreign
Office Minister responsible for the Middle East, said that he wanted to see
the decade-long embargo lifted.

“I want to say it clearly now, because it has not been said as clearly
before,” he told The Times. “I want to see sanctions suspended so that
everything can move forward. Iraq can move forward, the region can move

“But the only vehicle for that is (UN Security Council Resolution) 1284,
which in return for allowing inspectors back would trigger within months,
literally within 180 days, sanctions suspension.”

Although his message was a broad restatement of existing policy, the tone
was vastly different from earlier statements. Britain has been under growing
pressure from moderate Arab countries to ease the ten-year embargo on Iraq,
which is being broken almost daily by flights, VIP visits and cross-border
trade. Across the Arab and Islamic worlds, Britain and America’s tough stand
against Baghdad has been widely criticised for punishing the Iraqi people
and leaving the regime intact.

Mr Hain said that in addition to his public appeal to the Iraqi leadership
to co-operate with the UN, Britain had been making indirect approaches to
Baghdad through friendly Arab governments in an effort to persuade the
Iraqis to change their minds. “I have been meeting with a number of key
foreign ministers in the region, in the Gulf and other Arab states, who have
been seeking to have a dialogue with Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi Foreign Minister,
about how 1284 can be implemented,” he said. “I am hopeful that if a way can
be found for Iraq’s dignity to be respected, while allowing the arms
inspectors in, then we could see sanctions suspended within six months.”

Even before that happens, Britain is prepared to show flexibility in other
areas. Mr Hain said that talks were under way with the French and Russians
at the United Nations to draw up a system that would allow regular flights
to resume to Iraq, so long as they were searched before take-off to make
sure they were not helping Baghdad to rebuild its weapons of mass

In addition, he hinted that if the Iraqis began to co-operate there could be
movement on the question of the no-fly zones, the areas of northern and
southern Iraq being patrolled by British and American warplanes.

Taken together, Mr Hain’s remarks suggest a reorientation of British policy
towards Iraq. Although Foreign Office officials are concerned that the
Iraqis are still concealing stockpiles of germs and chemical agents used in
the manufacture of biological weapons and poison gas, they would evidently
prefer to have UN inspectors on the ground rather than the existing
situation, where there are no monitors in Iraq at all.

One issue in particular — the survival of Saddam — could divide Britain and
the US, which have remained united for a decade on their approach to Iraq.
Although successive US Presidents have sought the removal of Saddam and have
been backing the Iraqi opposition, Mr Hain insisted that who ruled Iraq was
not his concern.

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