U.N. team leaves Iraq, warning of breach in pact message coming from Baghdad.

July 06, 1993|By New York Times News Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A team of United Nations weapons inspectors withdrew from Iraq empty-handed yesterday after being refused permission to install a monitoring camera at a missile testing site.

The inspection team's leader, Nikita Smidovich of Russia, warned that Iraq was in "material breach" of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Persian Gulf war, a phrase implying that another attack might be justified under existing Security Council resolutions.

Military officials in Washington said there was no unusual U.S. military activity in the Persian Gulf region. Defense Secretary Les Aspin and Gen. Colin L. Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were said to be on vacation for a few days, as were some of the service chiefs.

The government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein continues to react with calculated restraint to the U.S. cruise missile attack on its intelligence headquarters last week, emphasizing its unchanged desire for better relations with President Clinton as it prepares for new talks at the United Nations tomorrow on resuming Iraqi oil sales under a formula dictated by the cease-fire agreement.

But as so often happens in Iraq, the fresh quarrel over the weapons inspections has muddied the message the Iraqis are sending the outside world.

As a result, the mood of the Iraqi people has been swinging between euphoria and gloom these past few days as chances of peace or war advance and recede. The value of the Iraqi currency has fluctuated wildly, leading to sharp changes in the price of food on the free market, where citizens supplement their government rations.

Although Mr. Hussein has said nothing publicly about the cruise missile attack, the government and numerous state institutions,

including the officially controlled press, have reacted with outrage, particularly over the eight civilians who were reported to have been killed.

But the press has also repeatedly recalled the interview given by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to Cable News Network last week, in which he emphasized that Iraq still wanted a new relationship with the Clinton administration.

After denying any Iraqi involvement in a plot to kill former President George Bush with a bomb while Mr. Bush visited Kuwait -- which the United States cited as reason for the cruise missile attack -- Mr. Aziz listed the various signals Iraq had sent the new administration indicating a desire for better relations with the United States.

"Iraq is not the enemy of the United States," Mr. Aziz said. "We might have differences, yes. But these differences could be resolved in a civilized manner. We would like to have quiet and peaceful relations with America and the whole world."

The three-member camera team for the U.N. special commission dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction arrived a month ago to install a monitoring camera at the test site. The goal was to try to ensure that Iraq does not build missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers, or 94 miles, the maximum permitted under the cease-fire terms.

Iraqi officials say they have no objection in principle to installing the camera. But they say that before this happens, they want to engage the Security Council and the special commission in a detailed examination of how far Iraq has gone toward fulfilling its obligations under the council's resolutions ending the gulf war.

So far, the United States and several other council members have refused, suspecting that the request is an Iraqi attempt to bargain its way out of clear-cut obligations.

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