Global Policy Forum

UN Council Adopts Critical Resolution on Iraq


By Reuters

New York Times
December 17, 1999

United Nations-- The Security Council, ending months of contentious negotiations, adopted on Friday a resolution that could send U.N. weapons inspectors back to Iraq and ease Gulf War sanctions if it cooperates with a new U.N. disarmament agency. The vote was 11-0 vote, with abstentions by permanent council members China, France and Russia, along with Malaysia, thereby sending a message to Iraq of division in the council. The resolution was sponsored by Britain, which holds this month's council presidency and led many of the negotiations on the measure.

Baghdad, which has long claimed it no longer has any weapons of mass destruction, has already stated its rejection of the resolution, presenting the council with a looming new problem.

The main issue of contention, that brought the abstentions, was what Russia, China and France called the lack of clarity in spelling out exactly which disarmament measure Iraq had to meet before a suspension of the sanctions, imposed after Baghdad invaded Kuwait in August 1990. ``To put to vote a draft resolution under such circumstances wherein no consensus is reached after prolonged consultations will not possibly solve the age-old Iraq issue,'' China's ambassador Qin Huasun said.

But U.S. representative Peter Burleigh, said the adoption ''marks a profoundly important moment for the Security Council.'' He said the resolution ``is clear. It is reasonable. It can be implemented.'' U.N. teams hunting down President Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and the ballistic missiles to deliver them, have been barred from returning to Iraq since being withdrawn almost exactly a year ago.

They left shortly before the United States and Britain launched four days of air and missile attacks in retaliation for Iraq's failure to cooperate with U.N. weapons experts. The long and detailed council resolution sets up a new arms inspection agency, called the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC, to replace the old U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) that has been in limbo for most of the past year.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan must appoint an executive chairman of UNMOVIC within 30 days.

An immediate benefit for Iraq is the complete lifting of the cap on how much oil it is allowed to sell under the 3-year-old U.N. ``oil for food program,'' currently set at $5.26 billion worth of oil every six months. This enables Iraq to buy food, medicine and other necessities to help offset the effects of stringent economic sanctions in force since its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. But Iraq's oil revenues will still be paid into a U.N. escrow account, from which suppliers will be paid and about one-third skimmed off to pay Gulf War reparations and meet other expenses.

Parts and equipment to upgrade Iraq's oil industry will also be expedited on the basis of lists drawn up by a group of experts. A panel is to survey Iraq's oil industry and recommend long-term improvements that the Security Council would consider above the current limit of $300 million every six months. The resolution also calls for the immediate streamlining of procedures for Iraqi imports of foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, agricultural equipment and educational items.

An easing of sanctions will depend on Iraqi cooperation with UNMOVIC, once it has been established and begins functioning. The resolution provides that if Baghdad cooperates for a test period of 120 days, it will earn a suspension of sanctions, renewable every 120 days.

More Information on Sanctions on Iraq


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