Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 15, May 1997
New Chair for UNSCOMOn 1 May (see last issue), UN Secretary-General Kofi Anna announced that, as from 1 July, the new Chair of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) will be Australia's present Ambassador to the UN, Sir Richard Butler. UNSCOM is trying to conclude its mission of certifying the disablement of Iraq's alleged weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programmes and stocks, and of accounting for all WMD-related equipment, materials and stocks.
On 2 May, UNSCOM's Chair since 1991, Sweden's Rolf Ekeus, spoke of his "mixed feelings" as he prepared to leave his post:
"There remains unfortunately some quantitatively small but qualitatively highly significant items unaccounted for in Iraq... Iraq appears to have decided to try and keep these capabilities... [I]t is now time once and for all to take a decision to give up these items. ... The Iraqi people are still a victim of a policy which makes it impossible for the Commission to reach a full clearing-out of all prohibited...weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and related means of production..."
Ekeus continued, looking back on UNSCOM's mission to date:
"[Originally,] we all expected that it was purely technical work... What happened was the opposite. Iraq decided systematically to mislead, conceal, and cheat in an effort to preserve these capabilities. Obviously [this was] because considered these capabilities more important than...considerable financial efforts."
Iraq's attitude, Ekeus added, made UNSCOM's achievements all the more remarkable. Its main ("crowning") achievement, in his view, "is the monitoring and verification system" now in place: "It is without precedent in arms control history. It is backed up by an export/import control regime which I also think is ground-breaking in its innovative character."
Ekeus concluded: "The best message we can send to Iraq is that this is a firm and steady operation and it will outlast the resistance, and hope that Iraq will decide to change its way..."
Also on 2 May, the US Ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, spoke of the "enormous task" facing the new Chair:
"Iraq has still not made the political decision to cooperate with UNSCOM and abandon its programme for weapons of mass destruction. The Commission must, therefore, continue its vigorous efforts to uncover the truth..."
The previous day, the US's Deputy Representative at the UN, Ambassador Edward W. Gnehm, told the Security Council, meeting to review and re-confirm sanctions against Iraq: "Until Iraq shows a fundamentally changed approach to its obligations, there is no basis on which to discuss the modification of the sanctions regime." Gnehm laid out what Iraq now needed to do: remove "the threat" its weapons "pose to the entire region" by exhibiting "full cooperation with the Special Commission"; return "the government archives, military equipment and other property Iraq stole Kuwait"; cooperate full with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) "in accounting for Kuwaiti and other missing persons"; and end "its support for terrorism." Gnehm concluded:
"In my government's view, those who encourage Iraq in these [obstructive] approaches will share the responsibility for prolonging, not shortening, the duration of sanctions."
The only relief from sanctions thus far has come from the ongoing implementation of Security Council Resolution 986, permitting sales of Iraqi oil solely to raise funds for emergency humanitarian supplies - the "oil-for-food" resolution. In a letter to Congress on 8 May, President Clinton expressed his dissatisfaction with the implementation of this resolution to date:
"Significant delays in implementing distribution of humanitarian goods - caused, in part, by Iraqi efforts to impose new restrictions on the freedom of access and movement of UN monitors - made it impossible for the UN Secretary-General to report on the adequacy of distribution and monitoring procedures during the first 90 days."
Reports: Ekeus - important work ahead for UN Commission on Iraqi weapons, United States Information Agency, 2 May; Ambassador Gnehm statement on Iraqi sanctions review, United States Information Agency, 2 May; Clinton report on Iraq's non-compliance with UN resolutions, United States Information Agency, 8 May.
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