U.N. Whacks Iraq

The Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a resolution that punishes Iraq for halting U.N. weapons inspections, but also gives Baghdad a way out of its impasse with the United Nations over economic sanctions.

The council voted 15-0 to suspend periodic reviews of the trade sanctions that have paralyzed Iraq's economy for eight years, essentially leaving Baghdad with no way to have the measures lifted.

But in a concession to France, Russia and China, the United States and Britain agreed to conduct a comprehensive review of the overall sanctions against Iraq. Such a move could force the council to acknowledge Iraq's progress over seven years of intrusive inspections.

In another compromise to France, the final resolution calls on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to report to the council on the status of Iraq's disarmament, a move the United States had opposed.

U.N. arms experts must certify that Iraq has destroyed its long-range missiles and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons before the council will lift sanctions, imposed after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, sparking the Gulf War.

Britain's ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock, said Annan's involvement would allow the U.N. chief to use his considerable diplomatic skills "to ensure there is a positive responsive attitude from Iraq to the requirements of the council."

"The council is expressing to Iraq the fact that the road is open to Iraq to move forward and to get rid of sanctions," Greenstock said. "The mechanisms for that are being adapted to make it slightly easier for Iraq to respond to those requirements."

Iraq's ambassador Nizar Hamdoon welcomed intervention by Annan, and predicted a comprehensive review would lead to sanctions being lifted.

The resolution marks the toughest move yet by the Security Council to punish Baghdad for its Aug. 5 decision to terminate cooperation with inspectors. The Iraqi decision has stalled searches of suspected weapons sites, since Iraqi escorts must accompany international inspectors.

Though highly symbolic, the resolution would essentially leave Iraq with no means to have the 8-year-old measures lifted. And it scuttles a major six-month review of sanctions scheduled for October, when Russia, France and China were to have made a push for easing the measures.

Those three permanent members generally take a more sympathetic view towards Baghdad.

Iraq rescinded cooperation with inspectors after the chief weapons inspector, Richard Butler, refused to certify that Iraq had destroyed its banned weapons.

Annan said he had urged Iraq to restart cooperation during a meeting with Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan at the Nonaligned Movement summit last week.

"I did tell them that it was essential that they rescind the decision and come back into compliance," he said. "Because without that they would be makin it difficult for the council to talk of lifting sanctions."

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