In Baghdad, Tension Eases as ‘Deadline’ Passes With AM-US-Iraq, Bjt
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ With a new U.N. nuclear inspection team on the way and the Security Council discussing partial relief for the Iraqi economy, fears of renewed allied air strikes appeared to fade Thursday in the Iraqi capital.
″There will be no more war. There is nothing to be afraid of in Baghdad,″ said Nabil Abiaen, 26, a taxi driver taking refuge from the afternoon heat in his brother’s shoe shop. ″We don’t want anything but to be friends.″
The United Nations had given Iraq until Thursday to reveal its nuclear installations and weapons inventory as required by the U.N. cease-fire Resolution 687.
Tensions had built over the past two weeks after the United States, Britain and France warned they might launch new raids if Iraq failed to comply.
In the days before the deadline, many Iraqis - thousands by some estimates - fled to neighboring Jordan, and others stocked up on food and other goods such as gasoline and bottled gas. Anti-aircraft guns appeared on government buildings, and defense headquarter operations were moved to schools.
U.S. officials said Thursday in Washington that no attack was imminent despite their suspicions about President Saddam Hussein’s willingness to provide complete information about Iraq’s nuclear program.
Iraqi fears had already been eased by the news that another team of U.N. nuclear inspectors was to arrive Saturday for a two-week visit to seek more information on the Iraqi program.
News that the U.N. Security Council was considering partially lifting economic sanctions also led to a collective sigh of relief and to less hoarding of food and gasoline.
But many Iraqis were mindful of the fact they hadn’t believed an attack would occur in January, either - until bombs began falling, two days after the Security Council’s Jan. 15 deadline to withdraw from Kuwait expired.
″You can’t predict anything after what we experienced in the gulf crisis,″ said Zafera Abdullah, a student at Baghdad University. ″It’s all run by Bush. There is no U.N. anymore.″
The Security Council on Thursday took up Iraq’s request to sell $2.6 billion worth of its oil to purchase food, medicine and other necessities. The council recessed without making a decision.
The Baghdad Observer and other government-controlled papers said the U.N. Sanctions Committee had agreed in principle to allow Iraq to sell oil. In fact, the committee passed the decision along to the Security Council.
Many Iraqis think the government has done all it can to comply with all conditions to end the sanctions, and believe the embargo should be lifted.
″We only hope we can go back to where we were before January,″ said Raoul Ali, 55, a photo shop operator who said it is increasingly difficult to obtain arthritis medicines he needs.