Iraqi Defiance Raises UN Hackles
Tariq Aziz defends his country's foot-dragging over UN resolutions, weapons destruction. DISTRUST RUNS DEEP
| UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.
IF Iraq once again miscalculates the firmness of United Nations Security Council intentions, it will not be for any failure by the Council to make its demands on Iraq perfectly clear.
Much like stern parents scolding a child, each of the Council's 15 members this week told Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz in a rare face-to-face session that Iraq was the source of most of its own problems and suffering.
Only full compliance with the cease-fire terms Iraq once promised to accept would bring relief, Council members said. Only then would economic sanctions, which bar most imports except food and medicine, be lifted.
Mr. Aziz came to New York to answer charges that Iraq is defying the UN by refusing to fully disclose its most dangerous weapons and cooperate in destroying these weapons and the means to produce them.
It was clear from the initial speeches, which preceded a more direct question-and-answer session yesterday, that distrust on both sides runs deep.
British ambassador to the UN Sir David Hannay, for instance, said Iraq's record on weapons compliance from the start was one of "evasion, dissimulation, and often outright dishonesty." Early Iraqi statements that all dangerous weapons had been destroyed were shown by later inspections to be untrue, he said.
"This situation cannot go on," agreed Jean-Bernard Merimee, France's ambassador to the UN.
Though Iraq argues that it has supplied the UN with "sufficient" weapons data, Andre Erdos, Hungary's ambassador to the UN, said the facts "continue to belie that assertion."
Aziz, whose speech was prepared before he heard the speakers' long recitals of Iraqi violations, skipped past most of the charges to describe how intrusive the inspections and overflights had been. He complained that the Council's sanctions committee would not even allow soap, toys, and printing paper through the embargo. "How long will this iniquitous siege continue to be imposed upon Iraq?" he asked.
The Iraqi official, accompanied by a team of 14 that included Iraq's top scientists, accused the UN of trying to destroy his nation's civilian industrial base and its infrastructure for political reasons. He suggested that a few "influential, even tyrannical" members of the Council were to blame and asserted that some of the people on UN inspection teams were "linked to the intelligence services of certain countries." He argued that Iraq should be allowed to convert ballistic missile equipment to civilia n use.
US Ambassador Thomas Pickering accused Aziz of attacking members' independence and the cohesion of the Council. He said Iraq is trying to renegotiate nonnegotiable UN resolutions. "The author of all this obstruction and difficulty is Iraq itself," he said.
Many Council members were sharply critical of Iraq for not returning more property and prisoners to Kuwait in the aftermath of the war and for blocking humanitarian supplies to the Kurds in Iraq's north. Austria's ambassador to the UN, Peter Hohenfellner, called Iraq's failure to take advantage of a UN-sanctioned oil sale that would finance food, medicine, and other supplies "deplorable." Iraq contends that turning the income over to the UN, as required, would violate its independence.
Though Iraq has not formally rejected a UN cease-fire resolution that calls for long-term monitoring and verification of its weapons capability, Iraq says such plans also would intrude on its sovereignty. Rolf Ekeus, the Swede who heads the UN Special Commission on Iraqi Disarmament, told the Council that Iraq's position amounts to a rejection and the situation has reached "an impasse." Ambassador Ekeus has told the Council that Iraq tries to hide everything it thinks UN inspectors may not find.
Though no specific threats were made, the Council's clear hope was that Aziz would convey its serious tone and the content of its message directly to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Noting that the obligation to comply with UN terms is absolute and unconditional, Britain's Sir David said he hoped that Iraq would not again "miscalculate" the Council's determination. Yoshio Hatano, Japan's ambassador to the UN, said, "I am not sure if the Iraqi leadership fully understands the gravity of the present situation ."