Global Policy Forum

Mediator Failed to Sway Iraq on Arms,


By Paul Lewis

The New York Times
August 18, 1998

United Nations - The United Nations told the Security Council Monday that its mediator in Iraq had failed to persuade Baghdad to resume cooperation with the two agencies trying to find and eliminate its weapons of mass destruction, diplomats and other officials said. Iraq said it would not let inspectors visit sites they had not already been to until they declared the nation free of nuclear, chemical and biological arms and the Security Council lifted its trade embargo, these sources said. The mediator is Prakash Shah, a former representative of India at the United Nations. Iraq's U.N. representative, Nizar Hamdoon, confirmed Baghdad's refusal to change its position and said the inspection agencies had been "unjust and unfair." Hamdoon added that this was "why we have decided to stop all cooperation" with the two agencies, the U.N. Special Commission, known as Unscom, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The U.S. representative here, Bill Richardson, said it was now up the Security Council and the secretary general to respond adequately. He said the council would not allow Iraq to goad it into "precipitous action." But, he added, Iraq has "put itself in a box," so that "sanctions are going to stay forever, or until it complies fully." Last week the Security Council condemned Iraq's action, saying it breached the resolutions ending the Persian Gulf War as well as the agreement that Secretary-General Kofi Annan reached in February with President Saddam Hussein. That accord averted fresh air strikes by the United States and Britain against Baghdad.

Shah was sent to Baghdad to persuade Iraq to change its mind. But the only incentive he could offer was a vague suggestion from Annan that if Iraq ended its latest standoff, he would favor "a comprehensive review" of sanctions, though he could offer no guarantee that the United States and Britain would permit any easing. With none of its members apparently ready for another military confrontation, the Security Council reacted calmly to news of Shah's failure. Slovenia's representative, Danilo Turk, who hold's the council's rotating presidency this month, said the group might make "an expression of opinion" after Shah reported in person later this week.

Instead the council began drafting a reply to the inspection agencies. Essentially, by keeping the arms inspectors from visiting new sites, Iraq is declaring that it has been disarmed and that from now on, inspection agencies have the right to monitor only those industrial plants they have already visited. The council is expected to avoid new threats at this stage and instead will tell the inspectors to press on with their normal work and report any obstruction they encounter. The calculation, among American and British diplomats at least, is that by continuing to confront the council in this way, Iraq will eventually exhaust what good will it has and force all members to recognize its defiance, paving the way for a possible renewal of military action.

That is what Secretary of State Madeleine Albright implied, writing on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times on Monday, when she said that the inspection agencies "have been clearly mandated by the Security Council to carry out the necessary measures to disarm Iraq." "If the council fails to persuade Saddam to resume cooperation," she continued, "then we will have a free hand to use other means to support Unscom's mandate." While the atomic agency thinks Iraq's nuclear weapons programs have been effectively eradicated, Unscom is uncertain whether all chemical and biological weapons have been accounted for after it found traces of the nerve agent VX in missile warheads. After first denying that it had ever made VX, Iraq admitted making 3.9 tons of the nerve gas but said it had never been placed in a weapon.

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