Global Policy Forum

Security Council Puts Onus Back on Inspectors

Associated Press

United Nations - Rather than explicitly encouraging inspectors to try to search suspected weapons sites now banned by Iraq, the Security Council has merely voiced its ``full support'' for the arms experts' mandate. The council decision Monday puts the onus back on inspectors to decide whether to try to test Iraqi resolve in enforcing its inspections ban - a thorny decision that could lead to a renewed confrontation with Baghdad. Iraq froze cooperation with UN inspectors on Aug. 5 after the chief inspector, Richard Butler, refused to certify that Baghdad had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction. UN inspectors must make that certification before the Security Council will lift sanctions imposed after Baghdad invaded Kuwait in 1990, sparking the Gulf war.

The inspectors haven't conducted any inspections since the Aug. 5 decision and asked the council for guidance on how to proceed. Council members said letters being sent to the top two weapons inspectors were appropriate responses, but US Ambassador Bill Richardson indicated that they weren't expected to end the standoff outright. Rather, the council was turning to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who staved off a US and British-threatened war with Iraq by brokering a February agreement to give inspectors access to banned presidential palaces. ``The Security Council has acted,'' Richardson said after the council approved drafts of the letters. ``And we believe the secretary-general needs to once again use his skills and diplomacy to deal with this problem.''

Annan has so far sent an envoy, Prakash Shah, to Baghdad, but planned no personal involvement in the crisis, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Monday. Iraq's ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, made clear Monday that Baghdad would not allow any inspections regardless of Shah's involvement. ``We found nothing in Shah's initiative that would satisfy our concerns,'' Hamdoon said. Negotiations in Baghdad with Shah were continuing, but ``our concerns will have to be met,'' he said. Iraq claims it has complied with UN resolutions and has demanded that sanctions be removed. According to a final draft of the letter, the council called Iraq's actions ``totally unacceptable.'' It said council members ``reiterate their full support of the IAEA and UNSCOM in the full implementation of their mandates.''

If Baghdad blocks an inspection, council members could more easily hold Baghdad in violation of UN resolutions and a February agreement that gave them unconditional access to suspected weapons sites. To date, the council has only said Iraq's Aug. 5 freeze on inspections ``contravened'' the agreement, a semantic detail which prevented council members from taking tougher action.

More 1997/98 Information on Sanctions Against Iraq
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