Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 18, September 1997
Iraq Makes New DeclarationOn 10 September, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) on Iraq received a major new report from Iraq, claiming to fully detail and document its former programmes to develop biological weapons. According to an UNSCOM spokesperson, speaking in New York on 11 September: "We have been waiting for six years" for such a report. The unnamed spokesperson added that UNSCOM would require a considerable amount of time, months rather than weeks, to establish the full satisfactoriness of the report, which is reported to be around 800 pages long.
Speaking on 10 September, before UNSCOM acknowledged receipt of the report, the Commission's new Chair, Richard Butler of Australia, said "now I will be able to say to the Security Council that all full, final and complete disclosures have been lodged. ... What now remains is to proceed to verify the contents so that we can empty all the baskets of weapons as soon as possible." Butler added that, since he took over as Chair from Rolf Ekeus of Sweden on 1 July, "there have been no blockages. Cooperation has been good." The same day, however, the US Ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, poured diplomatic cold water on any suggestion that the Iraq-UNSCOM was nearing its end: "Iraq's compliance on biological weapons has been weak... And regrettably, we expect it to continue."
On 12 September, the UN Security Council passed a resolution (No. 1129) granting Iraq more time to sell oil in order to raise funds for emergency humanitarian supplies. Iraq was supposed to have sold around $2 billion of oil by 5 September, but had suspended the sales in August in protest against the slow delivery of humanitarian goods by the UN. The resolution was carried by 14 votes to 0, with Russia abstaining. Russia's Ambassador, Sergey Lavrov, was reportedly unhappy that the resolution did not criticise the US for contributing to delays in implementing the original 'oil-for-food' agreement. After the vote, US Ambassador Richardson was unapologetic:
"The Iraqi government, by refusing to sell oil, is using the Iraqi people as pawns to pursue political ends at odds with those of the international community... not for the first time, the government of Iraq has...made a callous decision to put at risk the well-being of its people in order to seek and score propaganda points..."
Under the terms of the resolution, Iraq is required to complete the oil sales by 4 October, an extension of the original timelimit from 90 to 120 days.
Reports: Iraq pledges weapons disclosure, Associated Press, 9 September; UN draft to let Iraq make up oil sales shortfall, Reuters, 10 September; Iraq promising to reveal its full biological program to UN, says Butler, Associated Press, 10 September; Iraq gives biological weapons statement to UN, CNN, 11 September; Security Council alters duration of periods authorized in June under Iraq 'oil-for-food' arrangement, UN Press Release SC/6418, 12 September; UN gives Iraq more time to sell oil, Associated Press, 12 September; Security Council adjusts oil sales to help aid program, United States Information Service, 12 September.
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