Global Policy Forum

Hopes to Find a Compromise for Iraq


By Barbara Crossette

New York Times
September 22, 1999

United Nations - Hopes faded on Tuesday that the Security Council could agree this week on a new approach to Iraq, with the United States and Russia still far apart on how to monitor Iraqi weapons programs and on when -- or if -- to begin lifting sanctions. American and British officials said Tuesday that meetings would continue this week to explore compromises on outstanding issues like how to measure Iraqi cooperation and how much control the United Nations would have over money Iraq would earn if sanctions were suspended.

But a high-level meeting tentatively planned for Friday is not likely to be held, diplomats said. The Foreign Ministers of the permanent Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- are all in New York this week for the General Assembly's annual debate. Iraq has repeatedly said it would not consider any plan that did not lift sanctions. And the only surveillance the Iraqis are likely to accept would be nonintrusive monitoring without the short-notice or challenge-type inspections that characterized the work of the weapons-monitoring program by a United Nations Special Commission that was set up after the Persian Gulf war.

The inspections were to have been the key to lifting sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. There have been no United Nations inspections in Iraq since last December, when inspectors were withdrawn in advance of punitive air strikes by Britain and the United States, and President Saddam Hussein barred them from returning. But even before that, months of Iraqi interference had made the work of the Special Commission, which had been disarming Iraq since 1991, largely ineffective. Without inspectors in Iraq, it is difficult if not impossible to know whether Hussein has renewed prohibited weapons programs.

The French say that this is reason enough to end the stalling over a new inspection system. Diplomats said today that France had suggested the early adoption of a "statement of principles" on Iraq, as an interim measure. An American official said today that the stalemate on Iraq had been discussed by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov of Russia over dinner on Monday. The official said Ms. Albright had emphasized that the United States opposes any changes in sanctions rules until the Iraqis demonstrate compliance with arms inspections.

In his speech to the General Assembly, Ivanov mentioned the Iraqi impasse as one of the causes of a more general decline in the authority of the Council. Russia is prepared to ease sanctions without waiting for progress in inspections and indeed would use a suspension of the embargo as an incentive to the Iraqis to comply with inspectors. The Russians contend that there may be nothing left to find in Iraq and that to make successful inspections the trigger for sanctions is unrealistic.

More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq


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