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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 34, February 1999

Diplomatic Attempts Begin to Resuscitate Iraq-UN Cooperation

On 30 January, the UN Security Council took its first major step in reorienting its policy towards Iraq following the bombing of that country by US and UK forces in mid-December, and Iraq's subsequent avowal that the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) set up in 1991 to investigate Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programmes would never be allowed to resume its work. The Council unanimously decided to support a Canadian proposal to establish a number of panels to compile reports, by 15 April, on the three main dimensions of Iraq's compliance with Council Resolutions. Those dimensions, as identified in the Council's decision, are disarmament; humanitarian issues; and matters outstanding from Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, with especial regard to property and prisoners-of-war. The full text of the announcement of the decision, made by Council President Celso Amorim of Brazil, follows:

"1. In accordance with the Security Council's primary responsibility, under the United Nations Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security, and emphasizing the importance of comprehensive compliance with all relevant resolutions, the Security Council continues to discuss options which would lead to the full implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions by Iraq. While pursuing these discussions, the Security Council has decided that it would be useful to establish three separate panels and to receive recommendations from them no later than 15 April 1999.

2. The Security Council invites the current President of the Council, Ambassador Celso Amorim of Brazil, to chair each of the panels. In an effort to maintain continuity, his chairmanship would run beyond his current tenure as President of the Security Council in order to complete this work.

3. The chairman would maintain close liaison with the Secretary-General and the Security Council President on the composition and work of the panels. The chairman, in consultation with panel participants and members of the Security Council, would adopt appropriate working methods and plans of work. The chairman could invite a variety of experts and views, including those from United Nations agencies in the field, to participate in the work of the panels and could authorize such travel, to obtain information concerning the situation on the ground in Iraq, as he deems appropriate in order to provide the Council with the best possible advice.

4. The first panel, on disarmament and current and future ongoing monitoring and verification, would involve the participation and expertise from the United Nations Special Commission, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations Secretariat, and any other relevant expertise. The panel would assess all the existing and relevant information available, including data from ongoing monitoring and verification, relating to the state of disarmament in Iraq. The panel would make recommendations to the Security Council on how, taking into account relevant Security Council resolutions, to re-establish an effective disarmament/ongoing monitoring and verification regime in Iraq.

5. The second panel, on humanitarian issues, would involve the participation and expertise from the office of the Iraq Programme, the Secretariat of the Committee established by Security Council resolution 661 (1990), and the United Nations Secretariat. This panel would assess the current humanitarian situation in Iraq and make recommendations to the Security Council regarding measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq.

6. The third panel, on prisoners of war and Kuwaiti property, including archives, would involve the participation and expertise from the United Nations Secretariat and any other relevant expertise. The panel would make an assessment, in consultation with relevant experts, of Iraqi compliance relating to prisoners of war, Kuwaiti property, including archives, as stipulated in Security Council resolutions. The panel would make recommendations to the Security Council with regard to these matters."

Although unanimous, the decision to establish the panels was taken in the context of deep divisions in the Council, with three of the Permanent Members, China, France and Russia, expressing varying degrees of disappointment and anger over the military actions of the other two Permanent Members, and over the leadership of UNSCOM by its Executive Chairman, Richard Butler of Australia. On 5 February, Butler announced that he would not be seeking to renew his leadership of the Commission upon the expiry of his contract in June 1999. Even this, however, was not enough for Russia, which is pressing for his immediate replacement. According to UN Ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, speaking to reporters on the day of Butler's announcement: "Our position is that we have lost confidence in Mr. Butler after his report on 15 December [see last issue]. That position is not changing and we have no official relations with Mr. Butler..." Butler responded to Lavrov's remarks by saying (5 February) he found it "sad that the Russian Ambassador is instructed to seek my dismissal now as if that in some way would solve any of these disarmament problems." Butler added: "[I]f between now and then [June] there is some arbitrary move to dismiss me, as if to imply that I or UNSCOM had done something wrong, then I would want to resist that - because we've done nothing wrong."

Iraq expressed deep disappointment at the 30 January decision. Calling for the removal of all sanctions "immediately and unconditionally," an Iraqi Government spokesperson argued on 1 February: "The work of the three panels on Iraq will take several months, which means nothing but procrastination and maintaining the unjust blockade..."

On 12 February, the members of the panels were announced. In a move which greatly pleased the US and UK, the 20-member disarmament panel includes 10 UNSCOM inspectors, among them Butler's Deputy Chairman, Charles Duelfer. The full list of members is as follows: Ichiro Akyiama (Japan, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)), Jacques Beaute (France, IAEA), Kaluba Chitumbo (Zambia, IAEA), Ron Cleminson (Canada, UNSCOM), Rachel Davies (UK, UNSCOM), Jayantha Dhanapala, (Sri Lanka, UN Under-Secretary General for Disarmament), Charles Duelfer (US, UNSCOM), Roberto Gracia Moritan (Argentina, unaffiliated expert), Guennady Gatilov (Russia, UNSCOM), Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack (Germany, UNSCOM), Hideyo Kurata (Japan, UNSCOM), Liu Jieya (China, unaffiliated expert), Johan Molander (Sweden, UNSCOM), Jack Ooms (Netherlands, UNSCOM), Daniel Parfait (France, unaffiliated expert), GianPiero Perrone (Italy, UNSCOM), Paul Sculte (UK, UNSCOM), Tom Shea (US, IAEA), Nikita Smidovich (Russia, UNSCOM).

The panel on humanitarian issues will consist of four UN officials: Sergio Vieria de Mello, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Benin Sevan, coordinator of the UN humanitarian programme in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, and Joseph Stephanides from the Department of Political Affairs.

The panel on Kuwaiti issues will consist of four members of the UN Secretariat: General Alvaro de Soto, Assistant Secretary-General, Raymond Sommeryns, Francesc Vendrell, and Ralph Zacklin.

After the panel members were announced, Ambassador Amorim told reporters that Iraqi cooperation would be beneficial in the assessments to be made, but was not essential: "If Iraq cooperates, the work of the panel[s] would be broader in scope, which could be interesting..." Amorim added: "I have not despaired of Iraqi cooperation... What I could detect was a wait-and-see attitude."

On 25 January, UNSCOM submitted a major, 260-page report to the Council on Iraqi non-compliance with the disarmament dimension of its obligations. The report painted a damning picture, highlighting as major instances of Iraqi obstruction the incomplete, inconsistent and inaccurate provision of information and documentation, the unilateral and undisclosed destruction of weapons, equipment and documentation, and the widespread concealment of weapons, equipment and documentation. Major remaining areas of uncertainty include 'special warheads', at least 15 of which UNSCOM believes Iraq filled with nerve agents, the nature and intended role of 50 warheads unilaterally destroyed by Iraq, and the significantly incomplete official Iraqi accounting of imports of missile propellants. The report sparked the major, overt row between Russia and Chairman Butler referred to above, with Butler claiming in the Sydney Morning Herald (27 January) that Ambassador Lavrov had made "absolutely untrue" claims to the Security Council about the trustworthiness of the report's findings. On 26 January, Lavrov had told reporters: "[T]here is nothing new [in this report]... There is no way you can be sure, especially after the strikes, that you can really follow up on those remaining issues in the old way..."

On 9 February, the IAEA submitted a 20-page report to the Council on its assessment of Iraq's nuclear-weapons programme. The report reiterated the Agency's position that, while there was no evidence of any ongoing weapons-development programme or any extant stocks of materials or equipment, this assessment awaited definitive confirmation. In addition, an intrusive system of ongoing monitoring would be required to verify that Iraq had not attempted to renew its nuclear proliferation efforts. Such a monitoring regime would be necessary, according to the author of the report, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, because it "is assumed that Iraq retains the capability to explore, for nuclear weapons purposes, any relevant material or technology to which it may gain access in the future..."

On 24 January, Iraq walked out of a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, expressing anger that the meeting's final statement which, while condemning the bombing and calling for a lifting of sanctions, urged Iraq to comply with UN resolutions and to respect the territorial integrity of all Arab nations. Iraq's Foreign Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, told reporters after the walk-out: "There were unbalanced ideas and it was clear to us that there was US pressure on the meeting, which led to a negative effect... We cannot accept such a meeting which again conspired against Iraq and gave the US and Britain the pretext for another attack." The Foreign minister blamed a meeting in mid-January in Hurghada, Egypt, attended by Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, for preparing the way for an insufficiently pro-Iraqi communiqué: "Unfortunately, the Hurghada group, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, tried to sabotage the meeting and use unobjective methods to draft a communiqué that, rather than condemning the aggression against Iraq and supporting us, they [instead] blamed us..."

The walk-out was criticised by all the other delegations. Egypt's Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa, issued a statement (24 January) saying: "We regret the withdrawal of the Iraqi delegation and we think this is because they focused on a few points that they did not approve of and ignored others that were very positive for Iraq... The final statement is aimed at rebuilding Arab ties." According to the League's Secretary-General, Esmat Abdel-Meguid (24 January): "The decisions we reached are 100% in Iraq's interests. We thought they would welcome our call to lift the sanctions and [for] a complete review of them. ... [Nonetheless,] Iraq should apologise for invading Kuwait. It made a mistake and it has to rectify it." The final statement itself read: "The Ministers expressed sorrow and displeasure over the military option against Iraq. They called for diplomacy and...[compliance with] Security Council resolutions."

Despite the condemnation of the bombing, the United States said it was, in the words of State Department spokesperson James Foley (24 January), "particularly pleased" with the final statement: "The United States is satisfied with the outcome of the Arab League meeting, especially the fact that members unanimously called upon Iraq to comply with its obligations under UN resolutions... We note that Iraq walked out, which only underscores Baghdad's continuing isolation in the Arab world..."

Since the cessation of the bombardment on 19 December, there have been frequent exchanges of fire between US and UK aircraft and Iraqi anti-aircraft positions in the no-fly zones in both the north and south of the country. By 25 January, according to Marine General Anthony Zinni, Commander-in-Chief of US Central Command, Iraq had violated the no-fly zones 70 times. Zinni was speaking on the day that US missiles killed a number of civilians - estimated as 17 by a UN report obtained by the Associated Press on 4 February - in a residential area near Basra in southern Iraq.

A number of US flights over the no-fly zones are originating from bases in Turkey. On mid-February, visiting Ankara, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz tried to persuade Turkey's Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, to withhold its facilities from the US. His appeal was unsuccessful. According to Ecevit, speaking to reporters on 15 February: "The US and British pilots open fire only to defend themselves... We said the Iraq Administration had planned the air attacks in the no-fly zones and we gave them details of this. They did not object, they confirmed it but they said they were in the right. ... [Aziz] told me they had to continue to do that as proof of sovereignty in their airspace..."

Reports: Iraq slams 'unbalanced' Arab League talks, Reuters, 24 January; Arab League defends stance as Iraq walks out, Reuters, 25 January; United States welcomes Arab League statement on Iraq, Reuters, 25 January; Butler - Iraqi disarmament needed, Associated Press, 25 January; Iraq - US missiles hit civilians, Associated Press, 25 January; US, Russia divided over Iraq report, Associated Press, 26 January; US admits Iraq missile mistake, Associated Press, 26 January; Transcript - US responds to Iraqi provocation in North and South, United States Information Service, 26 January; Iraq - Arab Governments back US, Associated Press, 27 January; Excerpts - UNSCOM Report to Security Council, United States Information Service, 29 January; Russia wants Butler's resignation, Associated Press, 30 January; Text - UN Security Council's note on Iraq January 30, United States Information Service, 1 February; Iraq rejects UN study panels, Associated Press, 1 February; Butler to relinquish UN arms inspection post, Reuters, 5 February; UN's Butler plans to finish term, Associated Press, 5 February; UN report says 17 killed in Iraq, Associated Press, 5 February; UN panel calls for Iraq inspections, Associated Press, 10 February; Arms probes in Iraq should be intrusive, says IAEA, Reuters, 10 February; Iraq's disarmament to be assessed, Associated Press, 12 February; New UN arms panel includes UNSCOM veterans, Reuters, 13 February; Turkish leader defends US raids to Iraq's Aziz, Reuters, 15 February; UNSC selects members of Iraq cease-fire review panels, United States Information Service, 16 February.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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