News

USIS Washington 
File

27 April 1998

US IS RELUCTANT TO SHIFT CONTROLS ON IRAQI NUCLEAR PROGRAM

(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.