Global Policy Forum

UN Experts Note Absence from Iraq


By Nicole Winfield

Associated Press
October 11, 1999

United Nations - Nearly a year after their last inspections in Iraq, U.N. weapons experts reported Monday that they spent much of the past six months preparing to return to Baghdad on short notice - and waiting for the Security Council to adopt a new policy to get them there.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Special Commission both said they had been unable to adequately do their jobs since they withdrew from Iraq ahead of December's U.S. and British airstrikes. But both organizations said they had used the time to either maintain or develop new plans for a weapons monitoring system to be put in place as soon as the council gives them the green light to go ahead.

The 15-member Security Council has been deadlocked on charting a new policy for Iraq ever since inspections ground to a halt with the airstrikes. The United States and Britain say they were punishing Iraq for failing to cooperate with inspectors, who must verify Iraq has been disarmed before sanctions can be lifted. Iraq, which claims to be completely disarmed, has said inspectors from the commission may not return. It has demanded that sanctions imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait be lifted immediately.

Iraq's closest allies on the council - Russia, China and France - have proposed a resolution that would suspend all sanctions if Iraq cooperates with a new commission to monitor its banned weapons programs. A rival resolution by Britain and the Netherlands, which the United States and the other eight council members support, would suspend only the oil embargo against Iraq if Baghdad answers key questions about its weapons programs.

While council members tried to narrow their differences, the Special Commission, known as UNSCOM, said in its two-page report that it spent the past few months analyzing data, planning for a "renewed and strengthened" monitoring system and collecting information about imports of items that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction.

The atomic agency, meanwhile, reported that it has maintained its plan for resuming monitoring of Iraq's weapons programs "and would be able to respond, on short notice, to a request from the Security Council to resume those activities in Iraq." As a result of their absence from Iraq, inspectors are "unable to provide any measure of assurance of Iraq's compliance with its obligations," to rid itself of its nuclear weapons, the atomic agency said in its one-page document.

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