27 April 1998
(UNSC will not lift sanctions during current review) (670) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- While acknowledging that some progress has been made between Iraq and the UN on nuclear weapons programs, US Ambassador Bill Richardson said April 27 that the US is not prepared to back moving from intrusive inspections to long-term monitoring of Baghdad's nuclear program. Speaking with journalists during a break in Security Council consultations, Richardson said that "we, the US, acknowledge progress in the areas of access to presidential and sensitive sites. There appears to be some progress in the nuclear file. However, we believe that it is premature to totally close that file without further steps being taken, specifically (on) data regarding nuclear enrichment, nuclear design, and nuclear exports." The Council is meeting privately to review the six-month reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Special Commission in Iraq (UNSCOM), which oversees the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The wide-ranging economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 will not be lifted until Baghdad has, among other things, received clearance from UNSCOM and IAEA on the weapons programs. In his report on Iraq's chemical, biological, and ballistic weapons programs, UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler said that "Iraq has essentially failed" to provide the information needed to fill the gaps in the chemical and biological weapons programs, nor provided new information to help account for propellants and other materials for the banned ballistic missiles. However, IAEA said in its report that in the past six months the agency found no evidence of banned nuclear equipment or materials or the conduct of prohibited activities and Iraq has satisfactorily provided a full, final, and complete declaration of its clandestine nuclear program. Richardson said that "on the whole, it is our view that sanctions should not be lifted. There is some progress but on the whole in the disarmament area, little progress that can be reflected at this point." "We would veto anything regarding lifting of sanctions, but there is little sentiment of that" in the Council, he added. The ambassador noted that while no member of the 15-nation Council is ready to lift sanctions, Russia is considering proposing a resolution that would formally acknowledge Iraq's progress on the nuclear weapons issue. Such a move would be the first such act by the Council in almost eight years. Richardson said that the United States feels the Russian proposal is "premature" at this time. The US delegation would "prefer a presidential statement," which while requiring the agreement of all Council members does not carry the political weight of a resolution. In a presidential statement "we would like to see acknowledgement of progress on the nuclear file but at the same time acknowledging the need for more progress to be made in this area before it is closed," the ambassador said. "We do think that progress needs to be acknowledged in this area and if certain steps are taken in the nuclear area...that perhaps this can be closed at a later date," Richardson said. The Council is not expected to come to any agreement for several days. Asked about press reports that Iraq is again threatening to end cooperation with the UN if sanctions aren't lifted, Richardson said "it's not going to work. Sanctions are not going to be lifted." "Iraq needs to make many, many steps besides bluster and threats before sanctions are lifted," he said, citing the need to return Kuwaiti POWs and property, and to improve the human rights situation. "On disarmament issues relating to chemical and biological weapons and other UNSCOM-related issues, Iraq still has many, many miles to go before we can even consider lifting sanctions," Richardson said. The Council also has a meeting scheduled April 27 with Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad al-Sahhaf, who asked that he be allowed to present Iraq's case directly to the UNSC.