Global Policy Forum

UN Deadlock Over Iraq Sanctions

June 27, 2001

The United Nations Security Council appears to have reached an impasse over sanctions on Iraq, less than a week before the current policy is due to expire. Russia has introduced a draft resolution to suspend the sanctions altogether, but the United States and United Kingdom have dismissed this as unacceptable.

"There's very little of it that my delegation would be able to work with," acting US Ambassador to the UN James Cunningham said. Moscow, in turn, rejects a initiative by the US and the UK to replace the current broad sanctions with more targeted ones. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ordzhonikidze told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that Russia "cannot agree" with the proposal.

Smart Sanctions

That proposal - for targeted measures known as "smart sanctions" - would ease restrictions on civilian goods while retaining the military embargo on Iraq. In order to be implemented, it must have the approval of all five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, UK, Russia, China and France.

Russia, Iraq's closest ally on the council, has argued instead that the UN should move towards ending the sanctions, imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The UK Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, called the Russian proposal "a disturbing text" and said it was "not a credible approach" to changing the sanctions regime. Mr Ordzhonikidze, for his part, told Interfax that Russia was "seriously worried that the so-called smart sanctions may negatively affect the legitimate economic interests of many countries, including Russia".

Iraqi Debt

Before 1990, Russia supplied Baghdad with weaponry worth billions of dollars which was to be paid for in oil. Correspondents say its only hope of seeing at least some of that debt repaid is if sanctions are lifted and Russian firms are allowed to invest in Iraqi oilfields.

On Monday, Iraq's ambassador in Moscow said Russian firms would be given preferential treatment in return for opposition to the proposed smart sanctions. The US-UK plan would be part of the oil-for-food scheme, which allows Baghdad to sell limited quantities of oil in order to buy basic goods for ordinary Iraqis. The oil-for-food arrangements are expected to continue unchanged if the Security Council cannot reach an agreement on modifying the sanctions.

Clock ticking

They are currently in force under a one-month extension agreed by the Security Council at the beginning of June. Russia made its proposal at an open meeting on the sanctions regime called at Moscow's suggestion. All 15 members of the Security Council spoke on the subject on Tuesday, as did Kuwait, which was invaded by Baghdad in 1990.

The debate is scheduled to continue on Thursday, with contributions from Iraq's neighbours Syria and Turkey, plus a statement from Baghdad.

More Information on the Oil for Food Program
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq
More Information on the Iraq Crisis


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