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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 47, June 2000

No Movement over UNMOVIC

Nearly six months after the UN Security Council voted to establish a new Commission to investigate Iraqi disarmament, the new body - the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) - continues to prepare for its mission but remains unable to begin work, rejected by an Iraqi Government insistent that no further inspections are necessary and that all sanctions against it be lifted immediately and unconditionally. Iraq's position - predicted by France, Russia and China when abstaining on the December 1999 resolution establishing the new regime - was reaffirmed on May 31 by Oil Minister Amir Mohammed Rasheed, speaking to reporters in Baghdad: "This UNMOVIC, we have nothing to do with it… Iraq has set its position clearly that sanctions should be lifted and military aggression should be stopped, and without these two [conditions being met] we cannot discuss anything else…" The 'military aggression' mentioned by Rasheed refers to the routine US-UK bombing, occasionally resulting in civilian casualties, to maintain 'no-fly zones' in the north and south of Iraq which a number of Security Council members, including Russia and China, regard as serious violations of international law.

In the absence of progress, the main mechanism for relieving the vast civilian distress in Iraq is the 'oil-for-food' programme allowing the country to export oil to raise funds for humanitarian supplies. On June 8, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1302, jointly sponsored by France and the UK, extending the programme by another 180 days, commencing June 9. The resolution also invites "the Secretary-General to appoint independent experts to prepare by November 26, 2000, a comprehensive report and analysis of the humanitarian situation in Iraq, including the current humanitarian needs arising from that situation and recommendations to meet those needs, within the framework of the existing resolutions". Although the resolution obtained full support, its adoption was preceded by a sharp debate in which China and Russia both argued for the incorporation of references to sanctions as the sole cause of humanitarian suffering.

In the last 180-day period, proceeds under the programme - no longer capped by the Council, as was the case in all previous six-month phases - reached $8.4 billion, bringing the total amount of revenue generated since the programme began operation in 1996 to $25.3 billion. Secretary-General Annan observed on June 9: "Now that increased revenues are available for implementation of the programme, the Government of Iraq is in a position to reduce current malnutrition levels and to improve the health status of the Iraqi people…"

Also on June 9, US Under-Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, addressing a meeting of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was heckled for defending the sanctions regime. Nine years after the end of the Gulf War, Pickering argued, "Iraq still has not complied with these resolutions and Saddam refuses to…destroy his weapons of mass destruction… He has not returned stolen property, accounted for the missing prisoners or stopped repressing his own people. That is why it is critical for sanctions to remain in place…" The meeting also heard from Annan, who expressed his "fervent hope…that Iraq will soon decide to comply fully with Security Council resolutions, and thus open a new chapter in its relations with the international community."

On June 13, President Hussein insisted that Iraqi disarmament be seen as a process acceptable only in context with other developments: "If the world said [we had to] rid ourselves of our weapons, leaving us only swords, we would accept… But if they possess a rifle while telling me I only have the right to possess a sword, then I will say this is not acceptable…"

Reports: Minister - Iraq won't deal with new UN arms body, Reuters, May 31; Security Council extends Iraq 'oil-for-food' programme for further 180 days, United Nations Press Release SC/6872, June 8; Arab-Americans angry over policy, Associated Press, June 9; UN Council seeks study of Iraqi situation, Washington Post, June 10; Security Council extends oil-for-food program to allowing Iraq to import necessities, New York Times, June 10; Hussein willing to reduce arsenal, Associated Press, June 13.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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