Iraq to accept arms monitors

November 27, 1993|By New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- Bowing to the pressure of shortages, hunger and inflation arising from a three-year trade embargo, Iraq said yesterday that it had finally agreed to let the United Nations start monitoring its industries on a long-term basis to insure it does not seek again to produce weapons of mass destruction.

The agreement, described by U.N. officials as a triumph for the Security Council in its long test of strength with President Saddam Hussein, would bring Iraq into compliance with one of the few remaining major cease-fire conditions set by the victorious Persian Gulf war allies after driving Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991.

Baghdad also called yesterday for the immediate lifting of a ban on Iraqi oil sales that has deprived it of crucial revenue.

But the Security Council has said it will not agree to this until it is satisfied that Mr. Hussein has given a full accounting of his nuclear, chemical, biological and missile weapon programs and shows that he is cooperating with the industrial monitoring.

Even with full Iraqi compliance, diplomats said, the embargo would thus remain in force for several months.

In Washington, Clinton administration officials took a cautious view of the Iraqi move, emphasizing that Iraq has still not provided all the information the United States wants about its weapons of mass destruction.

A State Department spokeswoman, Christine Shelly, called talk of lifting sanctions "clearly premature." Iraq has broken many promises in the past, she said, and must now "demonstrate on the ground over a sustained period of time its full cooperation with the monitoring and verification regime."

Iraq must also fill in "long-standing gaps and inconsistencies" in the accounts it has given of its weapon programs, she added.

Detailed talks on setting up new monitoring procedures will continue here into next week. An Iraqi delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is meeting at the United Nations in New York with the special commission established by the Security Council to oversee the dismantling of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Over the last 2 1/2 years, Iraq has repeatedly tried to hide nuclear equipment, denied arms inspectors access to industrial and military sites and refused to destroy military installations.

Iraq informed the Security Council of its decision in a letter delivered yesterday to the council president.

"I should like to inform you of the decision of the government of Iraq to accept the obligations stated in Resolution 715 (1991)," wrote Foreign Minister Mohammed Said Sahaf, "and to comply with the provisions of the plans for monitoring and verification in accordance with said resolution."

Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who leads the special commission on weapons destruction, said he interpreted this to mean that Iraq had accepted the detailed monitoring plans the Security Council has approved. "This means a major obstacle has been removed," he said.

Resolution 715, adopted in October 1991, required Iraq to provide a full inventory of plants and other sites involving potential weapons of mass destruction, as well as lists of machinery, chemicals and other materials that might be used in making such arms.

Mr. Ekeus described Baghdad's pledge as "a triumph for the council" demonstrating that the sanctions and embargoes against Iraq have worked.

But Mr. Ekeus said that Iraq would have to provide him with more information about its programs to develop arms of mass destruction and its long-range missile program before he could verify to the Security Council that the country had abandoned all plans to acquire such weapons.

The Iraqi letter called on the Security Council to begin carrying out "its obligations toward Iraq as stated in Resolution 687," which set out the terms for ending the gulf war. It called for "immediate and full implementation of Paragraph 22 without any obstructions, limitations or additional conditions."

Paragraph 22 of Resolution 687 states that the ban on foreign purchases of Iraqi oil "shall have no further force or effect" once the Security Council is satisfied that Baghdad has fully complied with its obligation to give up its weapons of mass destruction and agreed to the long-term monitoring of its arms industry.

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