U.S. seeks new conditions to lift Iraqi oil ban

December 19, 1993|By New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- Hardening its position toward Saddam Hussein's government, the Clinton administration wants to impose new requirements for lifting the United Nations ban on Iraqi oil exports.

The United States is urging other members of the U.N. Security Council to insist that Baghdad recognize Kuwait as an independent country and stop persecuting dissident Kurds and Shiite Muslims.

These conditions would be in addition to the Security Council's demands, made at the end of the Persian Gulf war, that Iraq disarm and let the United Nations monitor its military industries.

The U.S. position, supported by Britain, France and Russia, three of the Council's other four permanent members, stems from mistrust of Mr. Hussein, officials said. It makes it less likely than seemed to be the case a few months ago that Iraq will start selling oil again soon. The position of China, the fifth permanent member, is not known.

Over the last year, the price of oil has dropped from about $18 to $19 a barrel to about $14.50. This was mainly because of weak demand but also because the market concluded that Iraq was trying to strike a deal with the Security Council that would allow it to sell oil again. The tougher U.S. policy on lifting the embargo could lead to a rise in prices.

Setting out the administration's position in an interview Friday, Madeleine K. Albright, the U.S. representative at the United Nations, called for "a two-phased approach" to lifting the ban on Iraqi oil sales.

First, she said, Rolf Ekeus, head of the U.N. commission overseeing Iraq's disarmament, must certify that Iraq has abandoned its nuclear, chemical and biological weapon programs as called for in Security Council Resolution 687.

The special commission must also show, she said, that it is able to monitor Iraqi industry to make sure Iraq does not try to make such weapons again.

"I've said we want a proven track record of 6 to 12 months' monitoring," Ms. Albright said.

But in addition, she said, Iraq's compliance with other Security Council resolutions must be taken into account in "any assessment of its readiness to rejoin society."

This means Mr. Hussein must give "clear evidence of respect for Kuwait's borders" and also "show respect for his own people" by ending his blockade of the Kurds in the north and his attacks against dissident Shiite Muslims in the south.

"There has to be an overall package here," she said.

The administration's position recalls the stance taken by President George Bush and Prime Minister John Major of Britain, who both said they favored maintaining sanctions against Iraq as long as Mr. Hussein was in power.

President Clinton's attitude toward the Iraqi leader has seemed somewhat ambivalent. At first he appeared to distance himself from Mr. Bush's hard line, saying in an interview before his inauguration that he was ready for a fresh start if the Iraqi leader changed his ways and cooperated with the United Nations.

But in June, saying an investigation showed that Iraq backed a plot to assassinate Mr. Bush on a visit to Kuwait, Mr. Clinton ordered a missile attack on an Iraqi intelligence headquarters.

Then, shortly afterward, Mr. Ekeus received a green light from Washington, Paris and London before going to Baghdad to try to persuade Iraqi officials that their best chance of getting the oil embargo lifted was by cooperating with the disarmament requirements imposed at the end of the war.

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