Over 1 Million Iraqi Civilians
Killed By Oil Embargo -
Iraq Says No More
Note - The US recently blocked efforts by France, Russia, China and other UN members to consider lifting the 8 year killer oil trade embargo. The US now demands other 'new issues' beyond weapons inspections 'must be reviewed' such as 'accounting for Kuwaiti prisoners and properties' during Baghdad's occupation of Kuwait in 1990 before it will allow discussion of lifting the oil ban. Many UN members disagree and say it is now time to end the genocidal oil embargo which has killed over one million Iraqis via starvation, lack of medical supplies, and disease. The US disagrees...
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq faces condemnation Sunday from world leaders in what could be President Saddam Hussein's most serious challenge yet to the United Nations disarmament program.
Apparently fearing there would be no end to eight-year old stringent U.N. trade sanctions, Iraq said it was suspending all cooperation with U.N. arms inspectors and for the first time would close their long-term monitoring program.
The only exception was a handful of nuclear arms inspectors, providing they operated independently from the U.N.
Special Commission (UNSCOM), in charge of dismantling Iraq's biological, chemical and ballistic weapons.
But they too could only be involved in monitoring and not spot inspections, Iraq said Saturday.
In Washington, the United States denounced the Iraqi action and said ``all options'' for dealing with Baghdad remained open.
``We view this as a very serious matter,'' National Security Council spokesman David Leavy said.
Defense Secretary William Cohen, in Wake Island during a refueling stop en route to Hong Kong, said he was returning to Washington immediately to consult allies on the crisis.
And in New York, the U.N. Security Council, including countries sympathetic to Iraq, reacted swiftly and condemned Baghdad's Saturday decision, calling it a ``flagrant violation'' of council resolutions.
The 15-member body, in a statement to the press, late Saturday vowed to consider further action and demanded Iraq immediately rescind its decision and the one adopted on November 5 that banned inspectors from surveying new sites.
Iraq's announcement was issued in a statement after a meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council and the ruling Ba'ath Party leadership led by Saddam.
Both the announcement and later comments from Iraqi U.N. ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, said the move was in response to a Friday Security Council decision on a ``comprehensive review'' of U.N.-Iraqi policy that Baghdad hoped would lead to a partial lifting of sanctions.
But the United States blocked efforts from France, Russia, China and other members to consider lifting the embargo on exports such as oil if Iraq complied with weapons demands. It said other issues needed to be reviewed, such as accounting for Kuwaiti prisoners and properties during Baghdad's occupation of the emirate in 1990.
Washington also has been successful in keeping the nuclear file from being ``closed'' despite reports from the IAEA that it did not expect to find any more atomic materials in Iraq. The favorable IAEA reports apparently persuaded Baghdad to exempt five IAEA inspectors from its monitoring ban.
Compliance in accounting for its weapons of mass destruction is a key requirement for lifting any of the stringent U.N. sanctions, imposed in August 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The embargoes have had a severe impact on ordinary Iraqis and cost Iraq millions in oil revenues.
Unclear is what will happen to UNSCOM's 105 inspectors, helicopter pilots, communications experts and other support staff. Hamdoon told reporters the inspectors could withdraw because ``they have nothing more to do, both on the inspection front and on the monitoring front.''
But Charles Duelfer, the executive chairman of UNSCOM, said he would keep the staff in Baghdad, in hopes Iraq changed its position. He said the monitoring cameras and other electronic devices to observe strategic sites would be left in place but Iraq will not allow inspectors to view them.
``This stops our ability to do any monitoring on the ground,'' he told reporters. The monitoring center was set up in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War and were to remain in place even after sanctions are lifted.
With the United States maintaining that sanctions will not be lifted while Saddam is in power, Baghdad apparently believes it has little to lose by stopping the inspections, diplomats at the United Nations said.
Baghdad maintains it has scrapped all its weapons of mass destruction and blamed Australian Richard Butler, the executive chairman of UNSCOM of allowing espionage among the inspection teams and deliberately prolonging the sanctions.
Its Saturday statement also blamed Butler for not exonerating Baghdad in the recent controversy over whether it filled missile warheads with the deadly nerve gas VX before the 1991 Gulf War.
American scientists found traces of VX on 11 warhead fragments. Swiss laboratories in a later test found none and French experts found several chemicals but were not certain whether one was definitely VX.
Iraq said the council should fire Butler and restructure UNSCOM ``in a way that would make it a neutral and professional international establishment, devoid from methods of spying and deliberate harming and collaboration with the United States.''
Iraqis Ready for Anything
That Will End UN
Trade Sanctions
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Amid the rattle of dice on backgammon boards and the clatter of cups on waiters' trays, the talk at Al-Zahawi coffee house is again turning to the possibility of U.S. military attacks.
Al-Zahawi's patrons say they'll accept anything -- even missile strikes -- if that's the price of finally shaking off UN sanctions that have devastated their country.
"I think the government has taken the right decision," Imad Mohammed said. Iraq announced last weekend that it was halting co-operation with UN arms inspectors until the United Nations moves to end the sanctions, imposed on Iraq by the Security Council for invading Kuwait in 1990.
"Not only is it right, but they should have taken this decision years ago," said Mohammed, 40, gesturing with a black backgammon chip. "Eight years of suffering is too much."
A government escort is required to accompany all journalists to the coffee house, and, not surprisingly, the customers all backed the government line.
But the vehemence of the coffee house clients, and other Iraqis, suggested that many people genuinely believe Iraq has nothing to lose in pushing to lift the sanctions.
Government officials also suggest there's no choice, except to bow to a weapons-inspection system that they claim is humiliating and stacked against Iraq.
"There is nothing worse than the present situation," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told reporters Sunday. "Our people are suffering, and there must be steps to put an end to their plight."
Foreign diplomats see a desperate mood among the people, too. But the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there is clearly some calculation in Iraq's decision to defy the United Nations once again.
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein may be guessing U.S. President Bill Clinton is too weakened by the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Congressional impeachment hearings to respond as firmly as he has in the past.
But on Monday, Clinton warned Saddam that his latest intransigence would backfire and pointedly left open the door to possible military intervention in Iraq.
In this crisis, however, Washington has not rushed ships and planes to the region as it did in last winter's standoff. Iraq also can hope that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will be able to head off an American attack, as he did in a deal with Saddam in February.
The UN Security Council says the sanctions will not be lifted until UN inspectors certify that Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq claims the inspectors refuse to do so on orders of the United States, which sees the sanctions as a weapon against Saddam.
The sanctions limit the sale of oil -- ruining the country's oil-dominated economy.
The result for people such as Mohammed and his friends at Al-Zahawi coffee house has been eight years of economic hardship.
They speak of their lives in terms of "before the embargo" and "after the embargo" and say there's no relief in sight.
Mohammed said he used to support himself, his wife and two children as a construction worker, but most building in Iraq has stopped.
Now he said his family makes do on food rations, purchased under a special UN program, and "pocket change" that Mohammed earns buying furniture and other castoffs from his neighbours to resell on the street.
Mohammed's backgammon partner, Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, 36, said he graduated from the government's oil training centre in 1989 but could find no job in the oil industry.
Instead, he works as a day labourer and said he lives at home with his parents, distressed that he can't afford to marry.
"How can I take a wife when I have no money?" he said.