U.S. Row with UN Brews Over Iraq Sanctions
Friday 18 April 2003
BAGHDAD - A new dispute loomed between Washington and the United Nations over a role for the international community in rebuilding post-war Iraq as the United States presses for an end to crippling U.N. sanctions against Baghdad.
A call by President Bush to lift the sanctions, which have been in place for a dozen years, was widely viewed as a direct challenge to the Security Council to set aside its objections to the U.S.-led war and help the shattered Iraqi economy recover.
At a summit in Athens, the European Union on Thursday urged Washington to allow the United Nations to take a central role in Iraq's reconstruction. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the world body could not be subordinate to Washington.
Annan said the Iraq conflict had split the world more than any issue since the Cold War. "It is vital we heal that division now. The world cannot afford a long period of recrimination," he said.
U.N. sanctions banning most trade were imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait and they are tied to Iraq being declared free of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Pressure is mounting on U.S. forces in Iraq to uncover any banned weapons, which it cited as its main justification for invading the country and toppling Saddam Hussein.
U.N. diplomats insisted sanctions should not be lifted until the Security Council certifies that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.
"For the Security Council to take this decision, we need to be certain whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or not," said Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. "This decision cannot be automatic."
The United States and Britain repeatedly accused Saddam of threatening world peace by amassing weapons of mass destruction, yet no such weapons have yet been discovered.
"If the weapons are not identified and found then I think people will start to ask very, very serious questions about what the war was really all about," Richard Butler, former head of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, told NBC News.
U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTORS KEEN TO RETURN
Hans Blix, Butler's successor who pulled his team out of Iraq before the U.S. invasion, said his inspectors could be back in Iraq within two weeks. The United States has said it prefers to do the job itself.
"So far they have not found any weapons of mass destruction," Blix told the BBC. "I think at some stage they would like to have some credible international verification of what they find."
The capture in Baghdad of Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, a former intelligence chief, in a Baghdad raid, raised hopes that he might help to locate banned weapons as well as billions of dollars believed to have been stashed by Saddam and his ruling elite.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he did not think American teams would find the weapons unless Iraqis knowledgeable about the arms programs told them where to look. "It is not like a treasure hunt where you just run around looking everywhere hoping you find something," Rumsfeld said.
Barzan, reputed to be Saddam's "banker in the West" while serving as a diplomat in Geneva was the third person to be captured from a U.S. list of 55 Iraqis wanted dead or alive. He joined another Saddam half-brother and the fallen president's top scientific adviser in U.S. custody.
Behind the maneuvering over sanctions many hugely lucrative contracts for rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure are at stake.
The U.S. Agency for International Development on Thursday awarded a contract worth up to $680 million to Bechtel Group Inc., a privately owned San Francisco company, the biggest Iraqi deal awarded so far by the United States.
Bechtel's initial projects are to rebuild Iraq's power generation, water and sewage systems. But the contract is expected to include repair of airports, ports and possibly work on hospitals and schools.
SYRIA CONSIDERING EXPELLING IRAQIS
As the mystery deepened over the disappearance of Saddam and most of his top officials, a U.S. official said there were signs that Syria might be considering expelling Iraqi officials believed to have sought haven there.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said he is considering a trip to Damascus as part of a wider Middle East visit and the United States has toned down its rhetoric after repeatedly accusing Syria of harboring members of Saddam's government.
But Washington's charges that Syria has developed chemical weapons hung heavy over Damascus.
Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said Syria would refuse to accept arms inspections -- just one day after it proposed that the entire Middle East, including Israel, should rid itself of banned weapons.
In Baghdad more details surfaced of the anarchy and looting that erupted last week. The International Committee of the Red Cross said looters had raped some patients at a Baghdad psychiatric hospital.
In Washington, two of Bush's cultural advisers quit in protest against the failure of U.S. forces to prevent looters from stealing priceless ancient artifacts from Baghdad's antiquities museum.
"It didn't have to happen," said Martin Sullivan, who resigned as chairman of the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property. "In a pre-emptive war that's the kind of thing you should have planned for."
Antiquities experts suggested the wholesale plunder might have been the work of organized gangs and FBI said it had issued Interpol alerts and sent agents to Iraq to try and help recover some of the looted treasures.
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