U.N. demands Iraq honor inspections Baghdad's refusal is condemned, but no military threat issued

November 06, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

UNITED NATIONS -- The Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to condemn Iraq and demand that President Saddam Hussein rescind his ban on cooperation with United Nations arms inspectors. But the council stopped short of authorizing or even mentioning the use of force to back its demand.

The resolution, making formal the outrage first expressed by council members on Saturday after Iraq effectively shut down the arms monitoring system, comes amid reports that the United States may be preparing for military action against Iraq.

U.S. officials argue that they already have ample authority to attack Iraq under previous resolutions, and yesterday the Clinton administration moved ahead with preparations for air strikes, administration and Western officials said.

Several council members, however, warned against that course.

Russia's representative, Sergey Lavrov, who said that his government had been lobbying Iraq to change its policy, added that the only way out of the impasse was through diplomatic and political means. Nothing in the latest council demand "could be interpreted arbitrarily as a kind of permission to use force," he said.

"Any attempt to resolve the problem by using force," Lavrov went on, "would entail highly unpredictable and dangerous consequences both for the capacity of the United Nations to continue to monitor proscribed military activities in Iraq and for peace and stability in the region and in the Middle East as a whole."

Still, Russian U.N. representatives joined a stream of speakers yesterday, expressing frustration and anger over Hussein's seemingly self-destructive move, given the diplomatic strides Iraq made earlier in the year. Several diplomats speculated that the Iraqi president may be more out of touch or under strain than outsiders thought.

For a year Iraq has been stepping up pressure for the lifting of sanctions imposed after its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, and the council repeatedly said this would not happen until Baghdad answered all outstanding questions on its weapons programs. Last week the Iraqi leadership said it had run out of patience.

Alain Dejammet, the French representative, said that "progress toward lifting sanctions from which the Iraqi people are suffering is for Iraq to rescind without delay the unjustifiable measures of Oct. 31."

France withdrew its charge d'affaires from Baghdad yesterday to protest the Iraqi bans.

Iraq first cut back cooperation with arms inspectors on Aug. 5, then said on Oct. 31 that it would end all dealings with the U.N. Special Commission, known as Unscom, while allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to continue some of its work.

Yesterday, Charles Duelfer, deputy executive chairman of Unscom, said that perhaps up to 20 of about 120 commission workers in Baghdad might be withdrawn over the next few days. They would include a visiting team sent to observe Iraqi missile tests.

Earlier, President Clinton warned Iraq that "all options are on the table." The U.S. aircraft carrier Eisenhower and 20 other combat and support ships are stationed in and around the Persian Gulf, and yesterday, U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said during a tour of Iraq's neighbors that Persian Gulf Arab states are united against Iraq's refusal to cooperate.

Arms experts, looking back over months of confrontations with Iraq, have watched Unscom get whittled down further with each crisis. Getting the inspectors back to work, experts say, will mean more than returning to the status quo before August, when spot inspections were barred. The commission will have to be strengthened, experts say, but they and some members of the council add that this does not appear to be high on the American agenda.

Recent comments by officials in Washington have reflected a preference for maintaining tight sanctions on Iraq rather than risking a rupture of a common U.N. front by forcing more intrusive policing of Iraqi arms programs.

Pub Date: 11/06/98

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