Inspector Says Iraq Is Stonewalling
ROBERT H. REID
Jun. 19, 1998
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Despite an agreement hailed by Iraq as a breakthrough, Baghdad still is withholding key information it must provide before economic sanctions can be lifted, according to the chief U.N. inspector.
Diplomatic sources, however, said Thursday that Iraq apparently is gambling that Russia, France and China will prevail over the United States and Britain and persuade the Security Council to end the sanctions without complete verification that all illegal weapons have been destroyed.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Iraq's gamble puts the burden on the United States to decide whether it can accept less than complete verification or resist growing pressure to end the sanctions.
Last week, Iraq and the chief inspector, Richard Butler, reached agreement on a two-month inspection program to determine whether Baghdad has destroyed all long-range missiles and chemical and biological weapons.
Destruction of the weapons is the main condition for the Security Council to lift sanctions imposed in 1990 after President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, touching off the Persian Gulf War.
U.N. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Iraqis videotaped the three meetings with Butler and his team.
As a result, they said, many of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz's remarks appeared to be directed at an outside audience. He frequently referred to the suffering of Iraqi civilians because of the sanctions.
Following the meetings, Aziz called the agreement a ``breakthrough'' that would ``prepare the ground for the lifting of the economic embargo.''
Butler said afterward that ``if that work is done satisfactorily ... I believe we should be in a position'' to move toward lifting the sanctions.
But U.N. officials cautioned against interpretations that the inspection program was near an end. They noted that Butler had emphasized that Iraq must cooperate fully with the plan _ something the United Nations maintains Baghdad has not always done.
In a report Thursday to the Security Council, Butler said ``in virtually all instances, Iraq remained firm in its position that no relevant documents (on illegal weapons) were available.''
Butler also told the Security Council that Iraq refused to allow the issue of missile fuel to be included in the program. The inspectors say Iraq still may be holding propellant for long-range missiles, calling into question Baghdad's claim that all such weapons have been accounted for.
More significantly, the report said Iraq refused to clarify the extent of its attempts to produce the chemical warfare agent VX.
Iraq, it said, also refused to provide further information on its biological weapons program. At Iraq's request, however, the commission agreed to another meeting of technical experts, including Russian, French and Chinese, on July 11 in Baghdad to review biological weapons material already submitted by the Iraqis.