INSPECTIONS REQUIRED TO END SANCTIONS, UN SAYS



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Last Updated

12 Apr 2003

Source: Boston Globe, April 12, 2003

RECONSTRUCTION

Inspections required to end sanctions, UN says

By Elizabeth Neuffer, Globe Staff

UNITED NATIONS - Crippling sanctions on war-torn Iraq cannot be lifted yet because United Nations resolutions require that weapons inspectors first verify that Iraq is free of banned deadly weapons, Security Council diplomats said yesterday.

The UN sanctions on Iraq, mandated by a series of resolutions passed since the 1991 Gulf War, restrict both the flow of goods into the country as well as the sale of Iraqi oil, a combination that could stall efforts to rebuild the country. The embargo was intended to punish Saddam Hussein's regime, but it legally applies to anyone now in charge of Iraq, UN diplomats say.

That means that for goods to flow quickly to Iraq, the United States and Britain must ask the divided Security Council either to void the sanctions or consider having UN weapons inspectors return, diplomats say. Security Council diplomats are to take up the issue next week when they meet with chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix.

In an interview yesterday, Blix said that he will discuss the ''state of readiness'' of his UN weapons team with the 15-member council and that it is up to the diplomats to decide whether to return his inspectors to Iraq. ''There are many [council members] interested in a role for the UN,'' the Swedish diplomat added.

Last week, Blix told reporters: ''On short notice we would be operational again.''

France, Germany, and Russia, which wanted UN weapons inspections to continue rather than wage war, are among those likely to welcome the return of the UN's Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission, known as UNMOVIC.

''Germany welcomes the opportunity to discuss with Hans Blix what could be UNMOVIC's future role in reaching the Security Council's goal of having an Iraq free of'' weapons of mass destruction, said Dirk Rotenberg, a spokesman for the German UN Mission. Germany chairs the committee that monitors those goods that can flow to Iraq despite UN sanctions, under the UN's oil-for-food program.

President Bush pledged Tuesday that the United Nations will have a ''vital role'' in a postwar Iraq, although the details of US intentions remain vague.

European nations have insisted that the UN play a central role.

In the first sign of US-UN cooperation, the US Department of State invited Rafeeuddin Ahmed, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's special adviser on Iraq, to Washington for a ''series of briefings on Iraq.'' The first meeting is set for Monday.

Finding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction is a key goal for the Bush administration, which made its case for war on the basis of its allegation that Iraq still harbors illegal arms. The administration accused Iraq of having mobile biological and chemical laboratories as well as stocks of anthrax and VX, a nerve agent, among other banned weapons.

Three weeks into the coalition-led war, no ''smoking gun'' has emerged proving Iraq has such weapons.

Secretary of State Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that he was not surprised that biological or chemical weapons had not been discovered - and suggested they were well hidden.

''It's a big country,'' he told reporters. ''We're going to find the people'' who can help lead allied forces to them, Rumsfeld said.

If UN weapons inspectors return and certify that Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction, that would undermine critics of the war, but the State Department and the Pentagon are divided over whether to give the UN equal authority to do so.

Increasingly, however, it looks as if the decision on the inspectors may play out in the Security Council when it debates lifting the UN sanctions.

Some council members, skeptical of the administration's assertions that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, may want to insist that weapons inspectors return.

''They may not want to let the US and Britain off the hook,'' suggested one council diplomat.

Others members, reflecting views shared by some officials

in the State Department, contend that Blix, who has teams of specialists already knowledgeable about Iraq's weapons stocks, is better placed to find any banned arms.

Yesterday, Blix and other UN weapons inspectors lamented the possible loss of key documents to looting.

Blix received an honorary doctorate from the New England School of Law yesterday, but in his half-hour speech, he steered mostly clear of the war in Iraq. At the beginning, he said, ''I, like others, am relieved it has been short.''

He then sounded a note of skepticism: ''I am very curious to see if the Allies in Iraq will find any weapons of mass destruction.''

He closed the evening by saying, ''Let's all hope for a speedy return to peace.''