Global Policy Forum

Russia, China Cool on Iraq Sanctions

Associated Press
May 18, 2001

Russia and China reacted cautiously to a U.S.-backed British proposal to ease U.N. trade sanctions on Iraq but tighten an arms embargo, signaling supporters of the plan are in for tough negotiations.

Pressed to allow more trade with Iraq and criticized for contributing to its people's suffering in their quest to punish Saddam Hussein, Britain and the United States want to end sanctions on civilian goods while toughening enforcement of the arms ban. The British plan would ban military-related items and require approval for items with potential military use. If approved by the U.N. Security Council, it the would mark the first significant easing of sanctions in place since Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Britain said Wednesday it had a positive initial response from France, Russia and China -- Iraq's main supporters on the 15-member Security Council, where their approval is critical to any overhaul of sanctions because each has veto power. But the Russians and Chinese were far more cautious in public comments on Thursday, signaling that lengthy negotiations are likely before any resolution is adopted.

``It is clearly premature to speak of Russian support for this initiative,'' Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ordzhonikidze, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency reported that Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz asked Moscow to use its veto on any U.S.-British proposal to change sanctions, but Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Gennadi Gatilov, told The Associated Press he was unaware of such a request.

The British want the resolution incorporating the new proposals, to be part of the extension of the U.N. oil-for-food program, which allows Iraq to sell oil provided the proceeds go for food, medicine, humanitarian relief and oil-industry equipment. The current six-month phase of the program ends June 3.

But China's deputy U.N. ambassador Shen Guofang said ``we believe that it takes time for the consultations on the draft resolution,'' suggesting extending the oil-for-food program and then tackle the sanctions issue in separate resolution. ``I think it will take more time to reach consensus,'' he said.

French officials said the British proposal included ideas they have raised in the past year, but they want to see a final text before deciding. Iraq rejected the proposal outright. Iraq wants all sanctions lifted immediately, but has refused to allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the country for nearly 2 1/2 years. Under Security Council resolutions, the sanctions cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed

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


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