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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 46, May 2000

Iraq Continues to Block UNMOVIC

The period under review saw no progress in attempts to persuade Iraq to permit the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to begin work. On April 19, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters he had directly appealed to Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraq's Foreign Minister, to meet the Executive Chair of UNMOVIC, former IAEA Director General Hans Blix. According to Annan: "We discussed the inspection issue and I urged them to meet with Mr. Blix, which at this stage they are not prepared to do because they believe it implies they have accepted [Security Council resolution] 1284 [establishing UNMOVIC], which they have not… They repeated the position of the Government that we all know… But we have not given up efforts to get them to cooperate with us…"

One obstacle in the way of a more cooperative attitude by Iraq appears to be the continued airstrikes by US and UK forces accompanying the enforcement of 'no-fly zones' in the north and south of the country. On May 13, Iraq claimed missiles had struck a residential district in Baghdad, killing a child. On May 16, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued the latest in a series of statements condemning Britain and America for their ongoing actions:

"Recently the US and Britain have been intensifying their bomb raids against Iraqi territory, in particular in the so-called no-fly zones. Moreover, in a recent air raid a number of civilian targets in the township of Samawa in southern Iraq was exposed to indiscriminate bombing. … [W]e would like to reiterate anew the need for an end to [such] actions by the US and Britain…which are absolutely unlawful from the point of view of international law. In practice this policy…only leads to more casualties and damage in Iraq and subverts the efforts for restoring Baghdad's cooperation with the UN in the arms control sphere."

Iraq's main demand, however, is for the immediate lifting of all sanctions. April saw a visit to Iraq by US Representative Tony Hall (Democrat - Ohio) to study the humanitarian impact of the embargo, now in place for nearly ten years. Speaking on his return to Washington (April 24), Hall said that, despite the suffering he had witnessed, lifting sanctions unconditionally was not the solution:

"Iraq's people are suffering terribly, and it was heartbreaking to see their pain firsthand. I left Iraq convinced that a great deal more could be done to address its people's humanitarian needs, and I am determined to do all I can to persuade the US Government to take these steps. But, like the majority of American citizens, I remain concerned about the military threat Iraq continues to pose to its neighbours and the world - and convinced that until progress is made on eliminating weapons of mass destruction, lifting sanctions would be irresponsible."

Iraq is permitted, under the 'oil-for-food' programme, to sell oil to raise funds for humanitarian supplies. On April 29, Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid announced that Iraq expected to export in excess of $8.5 billion of oil in the current six-month phase of the oil-for-food programme, ending in May. Prior to December 1999, a cap of $5.2 billion was placed on the amount of revenue Iraq was permitted to raise in any 180-day period.

On April 26, Russia's UN Ambassador, Yuri Vorontsov, reported to the Security Council on his efforts on behalf of the UN to obtain information on Kuwaiti prisoners of war missing since the 1990-91 war. In his written report, Vorontsov argued: "[T]he fate of Kuwaiti and other nationals unaccounted for…is a humanitarian tragedy which needs [the] highest attention of all parties involved… Iraq's response to the issue of missing persons…would become a yardstick by which the international community would measure Iraq's position on other outstanding problems."

Reports: Annan says Iraq refuses to meet chief UN inspector, Reuters, April 19; US Congressman calls for better relief in Iraq, Reuters, April 20; US Congressman ends Iraq visit, Associated Press, April 20; Text - Congressman Hall's remarks on humanitarian aid to Iraq, US State Department (Washington File), April 24; UN Security Council urges Iraq to report on Kuwaiti POWs, US State Department (Washington File), April 26; Iraq - oil exports to surpass $8.5 billion, Associated Press, April 29; Iraqi official - missiles hit Baghdad, kill child, Reuters, May 13; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 415-16-5-2000, May 16.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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