Global Policy Forum

Security Council Backs Off Again on Vote on Inspections for Iraq


By Barbara Crossette

New York Times
December 14, 1999

United Nattions -- The Security Council backed away Monday from a vote that had been planned on a new arms-inspection system for Iraq. Diplomats said foreign ministers of the five permanent council members were continuing to confer by telephone in hope of broadening support for the resolution. The vote to create a new disarmament commission for Iraq and a new program for the Iraqis to follow that would lead to a suspension of nine years of sanctions had been tentatively planned for Friday, then Saturday and then Monday. Action is now possible on Tuesday. But that is also not certain.

Diplomats seemed in the dark about exactly what was being discussed at a higher level, because it was fairly clear that of the five veto-bearing permanent members of the 15-member council, Britain and the United States would vote for the measure and that Russia and China were widely thought likely to abstain. Some diplomats said the delay was intended to give more time to efforts to persuade Russia to vote yes. France, which appeared last week ready to support the resolution, seems to be moving toward abstention, diplomats said.

Iraq has put pressure on Russia and France, traditional business partners, to stop the move toward new inspections, and France's hesitation may reflect its desire not to leave itself exposed in Iraq by breaking ranks with Russia. The French have talked the most in recent weeks about holding out for the broadest consensus. Its representative here, Alain Dejammet, said France had proposed changes in the resolution to help the Russians support it.

The Iraqis argue that they have met all the requirements for a lifting of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and would agree to international monitoring only after the embargo had vanished. The resolution before the council would lift the limit on Iraqi oil sales immediately and make import procedures easier. But it would also keep controls on how Iraq spends its money until it had met certain requirements to be framed by a new inspection team.

Russia says that this is too vague a goal line for Iraq and would like to have tasks spelled out in advance. Under a resolution after the gulf war in 1991, Iraq was required to destroy all its weapons of mass destruction and the means to make new ones. Much of its arsenal was eliminated. But questions remain about biological weapons, which Iraq at first denied having, and nuclear programs, which inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency found to be more advanced than they had expected. Fears that both those programs have continued run high among disarmament experts. Monday, there were reports that Iraqi was refusing to issue visas for inspectors from the atomic energy agency to make a routine visit, required by agreements on nuclear nonproliferation that predate the gulf war.

Some Arab diplomats, watching the yearlong effort to try to replace an inspection system that ended with British and American air strikes against Iraq last December, question whether the United States really wants effective monitoring in Iraq, which would make independent American military action more complicated, or whether Washington is backing the new plan in the full knowledge that Iraq would block it, providing a pretext for additional bombings.

Iraqi rejection of the plan would allow sanctions against Iraq to remain indefinitely or until Arab nations and more distant friends of Iraq are prepared to begin breaking the embargo. The Clinton administration appears willing to gamble that the embargo will hold, at least in the near future, while it pursues its plan to strengthen an Iraqi exile opposition in the hope of toppling President Saddam Hussein.

More Information on Iraq Sanctions


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