IRAQ - June 1 - UN Extends Oil-For-Aid Phase To July; Smart Sanctions Delayed.
The UN Security Council extends the current 9th phase of the
oil-for-aid programme for a month to July 3, while Russians and other
experts examine a revised list of goods that Baghdad may not import.
(This is a major setback for US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who
made revising the sanctions a top priority when he took office in
January and called for "smart sanctions". Powell and the UK
had proposed that smart sanctions should loosen curbs on trade with
Baghdad while tightening controls against smuggling and illegal arms
sales. The resultant US-UK plan met strong opposition in the Security
Council, mainly from Russia and China. Powell's smart sanctions
plan was the first major initiative in the Security Council by the Bush
administration. US officials, saying their intention was to help the
Iraqi people, predicted two weeks ago when Britain formally introduced
the plan that it would be accepted by the Council before the next
six-month, 10th renewal of the oil-sales programme, due by midnight on
June 3/4. The deadline could not be met because of problems created by a
long list of items that the US wanted to bar Baghdad from buying without
approval. Banning sales of at least some of the items, especially in
telecommunications and other technologies, is unjustified and could in
fact hurt more than help the revival of Iraq's civilian economy.
Council members say in any case the list, presented to them only last
week, is too long and complicated to evaluate in such a short period of
time. French and other diplomats predict a delay of several months.
Russia is seeking to put off a decision for six months. Diplomats from
other nations complain they had been waiting since January for a new US
plan, only to be handed a last-minute draft that the US would not even
co-sponsor formally. US officials say the outlines of the plan were
known for some time and that for countries accustomed to dealing in
issues of arms control, the list should be readily comprehensible. Talks
on May 30 in Budapest between Powell and his counterparts from Britain,
France and Russia did not narrow gaps among these four permanent Council
members. China, the fifth member with veto power, was briefed on the
Budapest talks. Washington may have created new problems for itself in
dealing with the Iraqi impasse by trying to rush a resolution through
the Security Council against predictably strong opposition from Russia
and China, and reservations from the French. French diplomats say they
were consulted in advance on items that could face a sales ban. Russians
say they were not. Once the debate opened, states close to Baghdad
introduced other proposals that they may now try to attach to a rollover of the current oil-sales programme - to Iraq's
advantage. One of these is a plan to allow Iraq to recover its
civilian aircraft from several nations where they were stranded with the
imposition of sanctions in 1990, followed by the 1991 Gulf war.
Moreover, in discussing how to stop the smuggling of Iraqi oil outside
UN supervision and end Baghdad's imposition of illegal surcharges
on controlled oil sales, the Security Council members are also being
forced to acknowledge openly how lax enforcement of existing sanctions
has been. If smuggling is to stop, Council members agree, neighbouring
Jordan, Syria and Turkey - whose oil purchases were tolerated for
political reasons - will have to be compensated if Iraq cuts off oil
sales rather than legitimise them as the new proposal would do. In
recent weeks, Baghdad has vowed to punish neighbours who co-operate, and
has begun threatening to disrupt the wider world oil market. Baghdad,
which demands that all sanctions be lifted without conditions, has
refused since Dec. 1999 to co-operate with a new arms inspection system,
the only route to a suspension and ultimately the end of the embargo.
All five leading Security Council members say, at least for the record,
that the requirement to reintroduce inspectors must remain in place.
That is spelled out in a separate Council resolution).