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[casi] Iraq asks UN about U.S. threats to Saddam

Iraq asks UN about U.S. threats to Saddam
Friday, March 22, 2002

UNITED NATIONS, New York Seeking to broaden talks on weapons inspectors,
Iraq has angered Washington by asking the United Nations to answer questions
about U.S. threats to topple President Saddam Hussein.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, released to the Security Council about
20 questions he received from Foreign Minister Naji Sabri of Iraq when they
met March 7 to talk about the return of UN weapons inspectors, according to
documents obtained by Reuters.
The questions ranged from whether U.S. threats against the Iraqi government
were a breach of international law to whether what the Iraqis called U.S.
"spies" would serve on inspection teams.
Iraq also asked how long inspectors would stay and whether Baghdad would be
compensated for damage inflicted by U.S and British bombings to enforce a
flight-exclusion zone.
Annan put the questions into categories and asked the 15 Security Council
member nations for a response by April 10. He plans to meet Sabri again
before the end of April.
Iraq's questions did not indicate that Baghdad would reject the return of
the inspectors. But diplomats said they doubted Sabri would give a clear
"yes" or "no" to that question at the April meeting. Instead he would
probably send any replies to his questions back to Baghdad for analysis,
they said.
The UN inspectors, who were sent to Iraq to check for evidence of possible
development of weapons of mass destruction, left on the eve of a
U.S.-British air strike in December 1998 that was intended to punish Baghdad
for not cooperating with the arms experts. They have since been barred from
The arms issue is key to any lifting of 11-year-old UN sanctions imposed at
the close of the Gulf War.
U.S. and British envoys were expected to insist that Annan not reply to any
Iraqi questions that could not be answered by Hans Blix, the chief UN arms
A U.S. official said that the questions included some "unacceptable
conditions" that veered from Iraq's obligation to give inspectors "free and
unfettered access."
"There are some questions that require technical answers and those should be
responded to. Others appear as conditions and we find them unacceptable,"
said the official, who asked not to be identified.
The questions also have the potential of splitting the Security Council,
particularly if its members decide to take a position on U.S. threats of
action against Saddam, which numerous countries oppose at this time.
Specifically, Sabri asked whether "threats to invade Iraq and to change the
national government by force violate Security Council resolutions" and
"rules of international law."
He also asked whether it was possible to normalize relations between the
Security Council and Baghdad "when calls are made for invading Iraq and
overthrowing its national government by force."
Sabri asked whether elimination of the U.S.-imposed flight-exclusion zones
over Iraq could be "guaranteed" and whether Baghdad would be compensated for
the "destruction of its economic, educational and other infrastructure"
caused by sanctions and violations of Iraqi sovereignty.
Other questions related to the inspections themselves, such as how much time
it would take to complete remaining disarmament tasks if the UN arms experts
returned. Blix has said that it could take his teams less than a year,
providing there was progress in fulfilling key disarmament tasks. Sabri also
asked whether there were any limits on the powers Blix would have and how
inspectors from the United States and Britain could "fulfill a neutral
international mandate." Blix, who attended the March 7 talks with Annan and
Sabri, has said that inspectors would be fired if they worked for a
government and that no one nationality would be excluded.

Copyright  2002 the International Herald Tribune

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