Direction of Iraq’s future gov’t worries U.S.

UNITED NATIONS (–The United Nations Security Council said they were engaged in serious dialogue over resolutions on Iraq, so on April 17 they moved their meeting out of UN headquarters to the embassy of a Council member.

“This dialogue is very intense and is taking place right now and it will be held over the weekend,” Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for April, explained to reporters. He said there were no proposals submitted for lifting sanctions, but the issue could come up at upcoming Council meetings. The next meeting was scheduled for April 22.


The issue of lifting the sanctions, which were imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent 1991 Gulf War, was given momentum when U.S. President George W. Bush, speaking in St. Louis on April 16, said, “Now that Iraq is liberated, the United Nations should lift economic sanctions in that country.”

The next day, U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, was telling reporters that sanctions are “one of the issues we’re going to have to deal with early on. If you ask me, do we have a specific language or specific resolution to propose at this time, the answer is no.”

Ambassador Zinser said there was a need to build a consensus. “And consensus is not automatic, so discussions will have to take place,” he added.

Analysts say lifting sanctions would probably end the Oil-for-Food Program that allows Iraq to sell limited amounts of oil to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.

“There is no need for an external program regulating the sale of Iraqi oil and the import of goods if the Iraqi people have control of their resources,” said Denis J. Halliday, the former UN under-secretary-general and relief coordinator for Iraq, during an interview on Pacifica Radio network’s New York affiliate WBAI.

Mr. Halliday resigned in 1998, expressing concerns that UN procrastination in approving Iraqi oil contracts delayed the delivery of needed supplies for the people. He also was critical of the impact of the UN sanctions on the Iraqi people.

“Those sanctions killed over a million Iraqis,” Mr. Halliday said. “The Iraqi people have suffered enough, they do not need more resolutions that keep them under the control of the United Nations. They are a very developed, sophisticated group of men and women who are very capable of running their country.”

Mr. Halliday said the U.S. would use the oil money to rebuild the infrastructure, not to pay for their war. “Baghdad can rebuild its procurement abilities in about nine months. With the right amount of capital we would see the Iraqis back in charge of their oil revenues, and they will put the country back on its feet,” Mr. Halliday stressed.

He said the best process is for the United States to hand over the control of the country directly to the newly established Iraqi leadership.

However, many of the 15-member Security Council said they are waiting for the Bush administration to make a specific proposal and spell out the role it envisions for the UN once the war is over.

U.S. officials said lifting the sanctions would make the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian supplies easier. But observers say that French and Russian officials fear lifting sanctions would give the U.S. total control over Iraqi oil, a control they want to see stay in UN hands.

French President Jacques Chirac said on April 17 in Athens, Greece, where he is attending a European Union summit, that it is up to the UN to decide the parameters for lifting sanctions on Iraq.

“The lifting of sanctions is an aim which we have supported for a long time,” he said. “Now is the time for the UN to define the modalities for lifting the sanctions.

“France wants the UN to play a central role, both in the next stages ahead for Iraq and in the context of bringing stability, which must be established in the region,” the French president said.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said April 16 after meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Athens: “It is very important for UN Security Council members to coordinate efforts to solve the problems of Iraq and to restore the country. Of course, in this process the UN should play a central, major role.”

Other Russian officials have been quoted in the press stating that American companies would be given the “juiciest” parts of the Iraqi oil industry, and that Russia would be locked out of lucrative re-construction contracts.

Ambassador Zinser told The Final Call, “We have to begin getting some initiatives on the part of Council members, and we must wait for Kofi Annan to make his report on his consultations in Europe. We also need to define the steps that lead to the proper assessment of the realities in Iraq that would clearly spell out the role of the Security Council.”

One Security Council diplomat, speaking anonymously, said the Council would probably adopt a step-by-step approach, starting with the oil-for-food Resolution 1472, adopted March 28, 2003, that shifted much of the responsibility of the Oil-for-Food Program from the Iraqi government to Mr. Annan.

This was done on an interim and exceptional basis, according to UN documents. The resolution set up the program for an initial 45 days, which ends May 12. It is possible to separate the oil-for-food issue from sanctions, the diplomat said, adding, sanctions can only be lifted once the weapons inspections of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have verified that Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction.

The Security Council has asked UNMOVIC Director Hans Blix and the head of the Oil-for-Food Program, Benar Sevan, to brief them on April 22.

“We first have to listen to Mr. Blix and what he believes is the UN task in the future,” a senior diplomat told The Final Call.

On April 12, the top science adviser to Mr. Hussein turned himself over to U.S. forces in Baghdad, after learning that he was one of the faces on a deck of cards and distributed to U.S. soldiers for apprehension.

Lt. Gen. Amir Saadi arranged his surrender with the help of a German television station, which filmed his surrender as the general proclaimed publicly that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, that they had been destroyed after the first gulf war.

“I was telling the truth, always telling the truth, never told anything but the truth, and time will bear me out, you will see,” Lt. Gen. Saadi said.

Meanwhile, observers say that Resolution 687—the 1991 resolution demanding Iraqi disarmament and establishing the first inspection regime, UNSCOM—does not explicitly say the inspectors must certify that Iraq has no more weapons of mass destruction.

Resolution 1284 of 1999, which established UNMOVIC, does say that the Security Council can suspend sanctions “upon receipt of reports from UNMOVIC and the IAEA that Iraq has cooperated in all respects.”

“The process seems to be clear enough that UNMOVIC has to certify that Iraq doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction, so we have to work on a process by which that certification can be provided,” Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram told The Final Call.

U.S. officials have not said whether they will allow the inspectors access to Iraq.

“We have to get the inspectors back in,” Ambassador Akram stressed, adding, “We have to hear from the U.S. and the UK on what their views are.”

He said most members feel that although the factual situation has changed, the legal situation has not, so they have to bring the two into sync.

Mr. Blix said April 20 that UN inspectors stand ready to return, and must return to Iraq to ensure credibility of the U.S. weapons search.

“So far they have not found any weapons of mass destruction,” he said. ” I think at some stage they would like to have some credible international verification of what they find.”

Ambassador Zinser said the Mexican position is that “the role of the inspections has to be finalized, according to resolution 1284 [which] indicates very clearly that it is on the basis of the inspectors’ reports that the Council has to discuss the ending of sanctions.”