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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 42, December 1999

A Year After US-UK Bombing of Iraq, Security Council Adopts New Resolution Without Support of China, France & Russia


On December 17, the UN Security Council approved, by 11 votes (Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Gabon, Gambia, Namibia, Netherlands, Slovenia, US) to 0 with 4 abstentions (China, France, Malaysia and Russia), Omnibus Resolution 1284 (1999) establishing a UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to ascertain Iraqi compliance with disarmament provisions established after the 1991 Persian Gulf War and so allow for the lifting of sanctions against that country. UNMOVIC is intended to replace UNSCOM, which was expelled from Iraq following the December 1998 US-British aerial bombing. Iraq, however, has expressed its total rejection of the proposed new regime, and the abstentions of three of the Security Council's five permanent members, while not affecting the resolution's status as international law, seems likely to prove a political Achilles heel.

The following positive appraisal of the main provisions and implications of the British-sponsored resolution - the full text of which is available on the UN website - was provided by the United States Information Service on December 17:


The resolution establishes the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission, UNMOVIC.

  1. A subsidiary body of the Security Council, UNMOVIC retains UNSCOM's mandate, rights, privileges, facilities and immunities.
  2. The UN Secretary General (SYG) will nominate, and the Security Council will approve, the UNMOVIC Executive Chairman, who with the SYG, sets up UNMOVIC.
  3. UNMOVIC and IAEA submit work programs for Council approval (includes monitoring plan and key disarmament tasks). Overall IAEA role unchanged.
  4. Iraq must fulfill key disarmament tasks. Iraq must cooperate with inspectors in all respects: monitoring and unresolved disarmament issues. Iraq must allow access for any inspection.

If Iraq fulfills key disarmament tasks and cooperates with inspectors for 120 days after reinforced monitoring is fully operational, the Council could act to suspend sanctions, provided that appropriate controls are in place.

  1. There will be no change in sanctions unless Iraq cooperates and fulfills key disarmament tasks.
  2. If Iraq fulfills key disarmament tasks and cooperates in all respects with arms inspection teams for 120 days after reinforced monitoring is fully operational, the Security Council will consider a temporary suspension of export and import sanctions - with effective financial and other controls remaining in place to ensure that Iraq does not exploit the situation to acquire prohibited items.
  3. Under suspension of sanctions, Iraq could import and export civilian goods for humanitarian purposes. The embargo on military imports would remain in place, and dual-use items would continue to require prior approval.
  4. Suspension must be renewed by a positive vote of the Security Council every 120 days. If Iraq ceases cooperation, sanctions would be automatically re-imposed.
Humanitarian Assistance

In this resolution, the members of the Security Council commit themselves to take all possible steps to ensure that - despite Saddam Hussein's best efforts to prevent it - the people of Iraq receive the humanitarian goods they require.

  1. Improvements to oil-for-food go into effect immediately. Iraq can sell as much oil as it needs to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, but all revenue remains under
  2. UN control. The resolution also makes a number of changes that should expedite delivery of humanitarian items and allows Iraqis easier access to a greater range of basic goods.
  3. The Sanctions Committee will define a list of goods for automatic approval. This will not include dual-use items with potential use for either military or Weapons of Mass Destruction purposes. The Secretary General will plan, with UNSC approval, use of oil-for-food money for the local purchase of goods and services.
  4. The resolution reiterates the obligation on Iraq to improve the oil-for-food program: to distribute goods more quickly and to help especially women, children, the elderly, etc.
  5. The SYG is requested to maximize program effectiveness and report obstacles to the Security Council."
Comment & Reaction


Statement by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, December 18: "The resolution which was adopted yesterday does not meet Iraq's legitimate demand for the lifting of the sanctions… The real aim of the resolution…is not to lift the embargo, rather it is an attempt to cheat international opinion because the trickery [of the] suspension [of sanctions] stated by the American and British resolution imposes a series of complicated, long and vague conditions… The resolution was void of any indication of the aggression that Iraq has been subjected to and the daily violations of its sovereignty as America and Britain impose the so-called no-fly zones… We were hoping that some of the permanent members, which had maintained balanced positions during the deliberations, would have stopped the resolution by vetoing it. However, we appreciate their abstentions… [Iraq is ready] to defend its sovereignty and bear all the consequences of its stand…"

President Saddam Hussein, December 18: "After this long period…they [the US] must have learned some lessons, otherwise they are stupid since the beginning and will continue to be stupid until the end. At the end they must learn a good lesson."


UN Ambassador Qin Huasun, December 17: "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… If Iraq cannot see any hope at the end of the tunnel by implementing the resolutions, as is the case with the draft resolution, how could it be willing and ready to offer the cooperation we hope for?"


Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, December 18: "We think it may give rise to an interpretation allowing some countries to keep on forever saying that the cooperation hasn't taken place and that, consequently, the embargo can't be suspended. That's what we fear…"

Foreign Ministry statement, December 17: "The text risks causing distorted interpretations… which could have as an objective an indefinite delay on any decision over the sanctions. Such a position could only lead to new crises… This could [have] be [en] the occasion to remove the last ambiguities in the text of the resolution and regain the unanimity of the Council for the full weight of its authority… [There is an urgent need to remedy] the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Iraq [produced by the sanctions]…"


Minister of State for Foreign affairs Suleiman Majed al-Shaheen, December 20: "We hope now that these three [China, France and Russia] will do their best to persuade Iraq to start cooperating with the United Nations, and with UNMOVIC…"


UN Ambassador Sergey Lavrov, December 17: "[It is] unacceptable to allow the repetition of the situation where the fate of a whole country is in the hands of, to put it mildly, the inadequate leadership [such as that of] the former Special Commission. … Without cooperation from Iraq, any plans or projects will just remain on the paper they are written on."

United Kingdom

Statement by the Prime Minister's Office, December 17: "It is a tough but fair resolution. Tough on Saddam, fair on the Iraqi people…"

UN Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock, December 17: "It was little short of miraculous that we got to a result on this very difficult subject… This is an invitation to Iraq which we now hope they take up…"

United States

UN Deputy Permanent Representative Peter Burleigh, December 17: "An enormous amount of patience and hard work went into shaping this resolution over the past year, and its adoption today marks a profoundly important moment for the Security Council. … The United States looks to Iraq to act without delay to facilitate implementation of this resolution. What is required of Iraq could not be more clear… Today's resolution does not raise the bar on what is required of Iraq in the area of disarmament; but it also does not lower it. The Council set an exacting, but reasonable and realistic, standard in resolution 687; and Iraq must meet that standard. The United States will support no resolution which alters that fundamental principle."

State Department spokesperson James Foley, December 18: "The practical consequence of the Iraqi rejection is there will not be any prospect for suspension of sanctions. This proves once again that Saddam Hussein's regime apparently cares more for its weapons programmes than it does for improving the welfare of its people."

White House spokesperson Joe Lockhart, December 17: "I think Russia and China have articulated reasons for their abstentions that speak for themselves. We believe it's unfortunate that France took the position that they did…given the fact that they had [earlier] supported the text…"

Note: on December 16, Iraq's UN Ambassador, Saeed Hasan, stated that the Iraqi Government had received a request from the IAEA to conduct its annual inspection of Iraqi uranium stocks, but that approval had not yet been given. "The Iraqi side received the letter a few days ago and we are studying it. We didn't refuse it", the ambassador told reporters, adding that the IAEA's own requirements specify an inspection of the stocks "in a period of 12 to 14 months - so we still have two months".

Reports: Iraq studies UN inspection letter, Associated Press, December 16; Security Council establishes new monitoring Commission for Iraq, adopting resolution 1284 (1999) by vote of 11-0-4, United Nations Press Release SC/6775, December 17; Burleigh explains US position on Omnibus Iraq resolution, United States Information Service, December 17; US disappointed with abstentions, Associated Press, December 17; France defends UN Iraq vote abstention, Reuters, December 17; Security Council sets up new system to monitor Iraqi disarmament, UN Newservice, December 17; Fact Sheet on Iraq Omnibus resolution, United States Information Service, December 17; Iraq rejects UN inspection plans, Associated Press, December 18; Arabs see no end to UN-Iraq stand-off, The Financial Times, December 20.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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