UN May Increase Iraq's War Bill
Arms destruction cost likely to be added to reparations; US also wants refugee aid reimbursed
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. — THE United Nations Security Council is expected today to add to Iraq's postwar bill the costs of dismantling its weapons of mass destruction, Council members and other UN diplomats have told the Monitor. These sources, however, did not specify how Iraq would manage to cover all its liabilities.
Private talks among Council members are continuing on the maximum percentage of future oil earnings Iraq should pay in reparations. Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar said the ceiling should be at 30 percent, but the United States wants 50 percent. Even at the higher rate, US diplomats say, Iraq will be paying reparations for more than a decade - suggesting that the claims against Iraq might well total more than $100 billion.
Iraqi figures indicate it will take $47 billion just to get the country back on its feet and cover food imports, reconstruction, and debt payments.
Iraq has asked for a five-year grace period to allow rebuilding before paying reparations. At the very least, Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Abdul Amir al-Anbari suggested in a letter last week, Iraq should not be required to pay until its oil exports reach prewar levels - sometime in 1993.
Mr. P'erez de Cu'ellar estimates Iraq's annual oil income by then at $21 billion.
Mr. Al-Anbari said in the letter that Iraq will need at least $10 billion a year to import ``food, medicine, vital consumer goods, and purely basic services.'' He estimated Iraq's immediate reconstruction costs at $13.1 billion.
Of Iraq's $42 billion external debt, more than half is due by the end of this year, Al-Anbari revealed in a document submitted to the Council in May. Payments are due to fall to under $5 billion next year.
This indicates that Iraq is behind in payments to creditor banks and is in no position to renegotiate or renew borrowing.
Another Iraqi diplomat says his country has no money at all. A Soviet diplomat says critically, ``A country in such an economic condition does not go to war.''
In addition, the US wants Iraq to be charged for emergency relief assistance to Kurdish refugees. The US spent more than $200 million to help the displaced Kurds, and last week pledged another $54 million to UN humanitarian relief operations in and around Iraq. In April, the UN had appealed for $400 million, and has received about half that amount so far.
The deployment of a UN police force, temporarily halted because of a shortage of funds with only 50 guards in place last week, has now resumed. About 480 UN guards would be deployed in the north and south by the end of June, UN spokesman Fran,cois Giuliani said Friday. The UN is not taking over from allied forces but will be a ``symbolic stabilizing presence,'' he stressed.
The US has reportedly asked the UN's special disarmament commission to mount on-site challenge inspections to verify information from a recently defected Iraqi scientist, who claims that Iraq has concealed the extent of its nuclear program.
Western suspicions of incomplete Iraqi accounting for its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missiles was cited last week as a justification to maintain economic sanctions imposed last August.
But another charge, the nonreturn of stolen Kuwaiti property, was refuted Friday by the UN official appointed to oversee the transaction. Assistant Secretary-General Richard Foran said he wouldn't accuse Iraq of noncompliance.
The process had been slow, Mr. Foran said, but he attributed the delay partly to Kuwait's difficulty in drawing up lists of missing goods. The Iraqis, he said, were chiefly having communications problems, because of destruction of telephone service and traffic jams on the only two remaining bridges in Baghdad. There was also disagreement on where the property transfer should take place.
Exactly 3,216 gold bricks, each weighing about 12.5 kilos, are to be turned over in a week or two at Ar'ar, a town on the Iraqi-Saudi border. Both sides had asked that the gold be weighed with the UN present. The Iraqis will put the gold on the scale, and the Kuwaitis will take it off, according to Foran.