Global Policy Forum

Iraq Seeks Russian Support and Cooperation

People Daily
April 18, 2001

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan headed for Moscow Tuesday on a visit amid recent United States proposals to restructure the sanctions regime as well as Russia's call for Iraq to allow the return of United Nations arms inspectors. Ramadan is the highest-ranking Iraqi official to visit the countries most important ally since the 1991 Gulf War.

Analysts point out that Ramadan, during the historic four-day visit, is expected to urge Russia to confirm its support for lifting the sanctions, and boost bilateral cooperation, especially in the oil sector.

Iraq Wants Russia's Role in Ending Sanctions

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein met Ramadan on Sunday, saying Iraq wants Russia to restore its standing on the international stage and restore its role as a superpower. Saddam hoped Russia, as a major ally and a permanent member of U.N. Security Council, could exert influence on the Iraqi issue and bring the decade-old sanctions to an end. Iraq has been under sweeping U.N. sanctions following its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

It put pressure on Russia by demanding Russian companies to implement the contracts they have signed with it, and has particularly pressed Russia's LUK oil consortium to honor the 3.7- billion-dollar contract for developing Iraq's West Qurna oilfield, the largest one in the oil-rich country, in an effort to break the sanctions. Yet to Baghdad's dismay, Moscow has been calling on Iraq to cooperate with the U.N. on arms inspections in order to get the sanctions suspended or fully lifted.

Russia Says Iraq Must Cooperate With U.N.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) on Friday that the sanctions against Iraq could only be lifted once Iraq cooperates with U.N. on arms inspections. "No one should have any illusions about the possible prompt de facto lifting of sanctions against Iraq," Ivanov said, stressing that the sanctions could only be lifted by the U.N. Security Council. Under the U.N. resolutions, the sanctions will not be lifted until U.N. arms inspectors declare that Iraq is free from weapons of mass destruction.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a letter to an Arab summit in Amman, Jordan on March 27-28, outlined Russia's proposals for an end to the sanctions in exchange for weapons inspections in Iraq.

In a similar move, Russian foreign Ministry issued a statement on April 3 saying that Iraq and the U.N. could reach an agreement on lifting the sanctions and resuming disarmament missions.

Iraq Flatly Rejects U.N. Arms Inspections

In an apparent rebuff to Russian proposals, Ramadan reiterated Iraq's firm rejection of the U.N. weapons monitoring regime on Saturday. "We believe the inspection task was over and anyone who pushes for its return is pressing for the return of spies to Iraq," Ramadan said, stressing that the arms inspections were "absolutely rejected."

Ramadan ruled out reports there was Russian mediation to get the U.N. arms inspectors back. "There is no Russian mediation for the lifting of sanctions but just some Russian ideas" to break the deadlock between the U.N. and Iraq, he said.

Ramadan also demanded the removal of U.N. sanctions, the longest and most comprehensive in U.N. history, claiming Iraq has fully cooperated with the U.N. and has destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq, disillusioned about the prospect of lifting sanctions by the U.N., has repeatedly vowed not to allow the return of U.N. arms inspectors, who left Baghdad shortly before the U.S. and Britain launched a bombing blitz against the country in December 1998.

Iraq Unlikely to Accept Russian Proposals

A Russian embassy source told Xinhua on Monday that during the visit, the two sides will discuss "political and economic issues of common concern," suggesting that Russian proposals on the Iraqi issue will be put on the table. But Iraq is unlikely to accept them, analysts say, as Iraq has clarified its uncooperative stand toward the U.N. and has in fact rejected Russia's proposals. Still, Ramadan is expected to sound out Russia's stance on the so-called "smart sanctions" and ask Russia to reaffirm its support for an end to the stringent economic sanctions.

Russia has so far been coy on the U.S.-proposed "smart sanctions" to ease curbs on Iraq's imports of civilian goods but tighten controls on materials that can be used for military purposes. Iraq has categorically rejected the modified sanctions regime.

Moreover, bilateral cooperation, especially in the oil sector, is expected to be high on the agenda of Ramadan's four-day visit to Moscow. Analysts point out that Russia is anxious to enlarge cooperation with Iraq to recover huge debts estimated at several billion dollars which Baghdad contracted with the former Soviet Union. As Ramadan has expressed belief that the visit will strengthen Iraq's relations with Russia, analysts believe he will not come back from Moscow empty-handed.

More Information on a Turning Point for Iraq
More Information on the Iraq Crisis
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq


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