Global Policy Forum

US Backs British-Dutch Plan to


By Judith Miller

New York Times
June 17, 1999

United Nations - The United States has decided to support a British and Dutch proposal that would partially lift oil sanctions on Iraq if Baghdad answers outstanding questions about its unconventional weapons programs and cooperates fully with a new group of UN arms inspectors. The proposal is the latest effort by the 15-member Security Council to end the diplomatic deadlock that has prevailed since US and British planes struck Iraq last December to punish Baghdad for its lack of cooperation with arms inspectors. The UN inspectors have not been permitted to return since then, leaving Council members increasingly concerned that Iraq may again be trying to acquire unconventional weapons.

The new proposal would create a new inspection agency for Iraq to insure that Baghdad is complying with its commitment to forswear unconventional weapons and that it answers outstanding questions about its past nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs.

Only if Iraq cooperates would the oil embargo imposed after it invaded Kuwait in 1990 be partially suspended, the proposal states. Specifically, it would suspend sanctions on exports, but not imports. Russia, China and France, by contrast, favor a total lifting of sanctions. Moreover, the British-Dutch proposal would maintain "effective financial controls" on Iraqi revenues to insure that Iraq does not use the revenue to buy or make unconventional weapons. This means that the United Nations would still maintain an escrow account into which oil companies would pay for Iraqi oil. Finally, the suspension would require Security Council approval every four months, which means that the United States could always veto the suspension if it concludes that Baghdad is cheating on its disarmament and other commitments.

Since the Council already permits Iraq to sell $5.26 billion worth of oil every six months -- currently more oil than it produces -- several diplomats dismissed the importance of the new proposal. But that revenue can only buy food and medicine under Council restrictions. Yet some diplomats called it significant that both the United States and Britain had for the first time endorsed a proposal partially suspending oil sanctions. A. Peter Burleigh, the US representative at the United Nations, said that although Washington still had "some problems with some parts" of the proposal, "it is something the US can support." The British draft, he said, would permit foreign companies to invest in expanding Iraq's oil infrastructure and permit unlimited exports if Iraq disarms and cooperates with inspectors.

The British and Dutch draft presents what one British diplomat called a "stepping stone" approach by which Baghdad, if it disarms, can eventually escape the sanctions regime. "It's a road map for the future," a US diplomat agreed.

More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq

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