U.N. council sets stage to use force against Iraq

March 13, 1992|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The U.N. Security Council set the stage yesterday for destruction of Iraqi nuclear and missile facilities, by fTC force if necessary.

After two days of meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the council said Iraq "has not yet complied fully and unconditionally" with resolutions requiring disclosure and destruction of its weapons of mass destruction and the means to produce them.

Reacting skeptically to Mr. Aziz's pledges of cooperation, the council said that Iraq "must immediately take the appropriate actions in this regard," and expressed hopes that the goodwill presented by Mr. Aziz "will be matched by deeds."

A crucial test of Iraqi cooperation will come next week, when a U.N. missile inspection team returns to Iraq. Rolf Ekeus, head of the U.N. Special Commission on Iraqi weapons, indicated yesterday that the inspectors may be instructed to begin destruction of weapons facilities.

Hans Blix, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said through a spokeswoman that "a decision concerning destruction of facilities" at a key nuclear weapons production site will be made "in the near future." He told a news conference that a nuclear inspection team will return to Iraq next month.

The United States assigns a high priority to destroying any weapon-production capacity at the nuclear site, Al-Atheer.

The council has not explicitly threatened military force, but the United States and Britain have made clear that it is an option. In Washington, the new Russian ambassador said, "We strongly support all the measures which are going in the direction of stimulating the Iraqi government to comply."

U.N. officials continued to meet with Iraqi representatives in New York last night to get them to cooperate with destruction plans. Iraq, so far, has insisted on not destroying facilities that could have civilian uses.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are struggling to find a way for the U.N. to continue paying for the inspections. The issue occupied a meeting Wednesday night of the National Security Council's "deputies committee," a group of senior officials from various agencies.

There are tentative plans for a U.N. resolution as early as next week authorizing the use of frozen Iraqi assets to pay both for continued inspections and destruction and for humanitarian aid that would be closely monitored.

Iraq has rejected U.N. instructions to sell $1.6 billion worth of oil for these purposes, calling the restrictions a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

Resolutions allowing the oil sales expire next week.

Drawing on frozen Iraqi assets poses a legal problem because of the number of claimants.

In the United States, for instance, there are $5 billion worth of claims, and only about $1.2 billion in seized assets.

An option explored by the United States is to merely borrow the proceeds from about $400 million worth of Iraqi oil that was in the export pipeline when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

President Bush, meanwhile, discussed Iraq with Jordan's King Hussein, who backed Iraq rhetorically during the Persian Gulf war but has since won back America's favor by cooperating with the Middle East peace process.

In a prepared statement, the White House said "the two leaders agreed on the importance of full Iraqi compliance with all Security Council resolutions."

Mr. Bush said of the king, "He is my friend and I welcome him back here."

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