- 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
- ``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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- "How can I take a wife when I have
no money?" he said.