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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 26, May 1998

Limited Progress in Iraq-UN Relations

The improvement in Iraq-UN relations, in the wake of the Secretary-General's February peace mission to Baghdad, appears to be holding, despite worrying signs in the second half of April that old grievances and frustrations were regaining the upper hand (see last issue). On 27 April, to Iraq's intense disappointment, the Security Council decided against any relaxation of sanctions, with the US and UK maintaining that considerable progress still had to be made in securing sufficient Iraqi cooperation to allow the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) to complete its assessment of all the main components - nuclear, chemical, biological and missile - of Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programme. A draft resolution by Russia effectively closing the nuclear 'file' was unable to command Council support and was withdrawn. Speaking on 27 April, Bill Richardson, US Ambassador to the UN, said the Council decision meant that "the international community has won. Sanctions will not be lifted before Iraq has not complied" with UN resolutions. Iraq, Richardson added, "has many, many miles to go." UK Ambassador Sir John Weston used even stronger language: "I don't want this organization, whose international standing I wish were higher than it was, to be duped by this policy of the 'big lie' which recalls only one thing, other dictators this century. We're not going to be had by that. We're going to sit there as long as it takes and get it right."

However, in a 6 May letter, UNSCOM Chair Richard Butler of Australia commended Iraq for its cooperation in Commission inspections which had taken place since the 23 February memorandum-of-understanding [MOU] signed by Secretary-General Annan and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz. According to the letter: "Iraq has granted unrestricted and unconditional access to all those sites that the Commission has wished to inspect, including sites designated by Iraq as 'sensitive' and 'Presidential'. Iraq has also granted the Commission unrestricted access to various equipment the Commission wished to inspect." Butler's notification of Iraqi compliance with the terms of the MOU triggered the termination of a ban on Iraqi officials travelling abroad, agreed by the Security Council in November 1997 but never actually imposed. Speaking in Paris on 12 May, Annan stated: "I am satisfied that things have much improved and [that] Iraq has lived up to its obligations under the memorandum... The relationship is improving between UNSCOM and Iraq, and we hope this is going to continue into the future and that with this cooperation we can accelerate our work."

On 14 May, the Security Council adopted a statement drawn up by the US and Russia acknowledging that serious progress had been made on the nuclear file and calling for the IAEA to submit an interim status report in July, in advance of scheduled reports from the Agency and UNSCOM due on 11 October. On 26 May, Butler told reporters that he hoped to give details shortly of a "roadmap" clearly outlining Iraq's remaining obligations. Butler held out the hope that, if Iraq reacted with genuine and comprehensive cooperativeness, all files could be closed as early as October:

"I...propose that we share as much as we can of what we know with both the Council and Iraq, [and that] we design a roadmap... We tell them the last remaining pieces we need to give a full account of their missile, chemical and biological weapons, of which they created quite a considerable array in the past... And [I'm proposing] that they work with us and position me...hopefully to go to the Council in October and say 'it's done'... The choice is theirs. They've always had this choice. It's always been possible for them to drive along the legal road, and do the disarmament and get out of sanctions... But what I propose now is that we do it. We run the last lap of this race, take up the challenge...and do it in the legal way instead of having another conflict."

Reports: France says Iraqi moves still short of UN demands, Reuters, 27 April; US urges continued Iraq sanctions, Associated Press, 27 April; UN agrees to keep Iraq sanctions, Associated Press, 27 April; Iraq sanctions stay in place, Reuters, 27 April; Iraq raises new inspection issue, Associated Press, 28 April; UN inspector gives hope as Iraq celebrates, Reuters, 28 April; United Nations Security Council keeps sanctions on Iraq, United States Information Service, 28 April; UNSCOM notifies Security Council of Iraqi cooperation, United States Information Service, 7 May; Annan satisfied on Iraq compliance, Associated Press, 12 May; Iraq inspections agreement reached, Associated Press, 12 May; UN Council says Iraq has made progress, Reuters, 14 May; Security Council welcomes improved access provided by Iraq to inspection teams of UNSCOM, IAEA, United Nations Press Release, 14 May; UN's Butler pushes for end to Iraq stand-off, Reuters, 26 May.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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