Tracking Number:  198246

Title:  "Iraq Blocking Weapons Inspections by UN Team." The UN Security Council continued urgent discussions on Baghdad's escalating confrontation with the special commission undertaking the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. (910923)

Date:  19910923


09/23/91 HIRAQ BLOCKING WEAPONS INSPECTIONS BY U.N. TEAM SH(Security Council in urgent consultation) (880) BYBy Judy Aita BIUSIA United Nations Correspondent

TUnited Nations -- The U.N. Security Council September 23 continued urgent discussions on Baghdad's escalating confrontation with the special commission undertaking the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The council was forced to intensify its consultations on the two-week-old dispute over Iraq's ban on U.N. helicopter flights over its territory when information reached New York that commission inspectors had uncovered evidence of an Iraqi master plan to manufacture nuclear weapons and were subsequently detained by Iraqi soldiers.

The U.N. inspectors were said to have discovered several "carloads" of documents pertaining to Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program in a building in Baghdad. Ambassador Roulf Ekeus, chairman of the special commission, said the inspectors were barred from leaving the building where they found the documents.

Ekeus called the situation between the United Nations the Iraqis a "standoff," although some reports indicated the U.N. inspection team had been forcibly ejected from the building by soldiers who confiscated the documents after being detained for more than 12 hours.

Ekeus told journalists that the situation in Baghdad is "very serious." He said he was concerned for the safety of the inspectors even though he had been in frequent satellite communication with them.

In recounting the events leading up to their detention, Ekeus said, the nuclear weapons inspection team entered a Baghdad building suspected to be a center for records and documents related to Iraq's nuclear program on "short notice."

The inspectors found documents indicating that Iraq was engaged in a nuclear weapons development program, he noted, adding that when they attempted to leave with the material they were stopped and held in the building.

Ekeus told journalists that the special commission wants the original documents and all copies, as it seeks to carry out its mission of searching out and destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

In commenting on the situation, particularly the dispute over U.N. helicopter flights, Security Council President Jean-Bernard Merimee told the council that the Iraqi foreign minister's response on helicopter overflights was "not extremely helpful."

U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering said that there are "serious and grave questions" on the helicopters overflight. "Obviously the U.S. continues to consider this -- as the president has said -- a very, very serious matter. We want unconditional acceptance of the resolutions, in particular resolution 707 (requiring Iraq to allow the flights)."

Pickering would not speculate on what actions the United States or the Security Council might take, but he ruled out setting any deadline for Iraqi compliance.

"There has been a deadline all along," the ambassador said. "There is immediate compliance with the resolutions of the Security Council without conditions....There is a deadline. That deadline was the day the resolution was passed."

Soviet Ambassador Yuliy Voronstov called that Iraq's reply "unsatisfactory."

"We will be working further. I'm confident that we'll solve the problem to the satisfaction of the council," Voronstov said. "It's just exactly the time for diplomatic action....all the diplomatic skill."

He said the issue of the trapped nuclear inspectors made the situation "more serious."

In a press statement, Merimee said that Iraq's reply to reminders from the council that it must allow the flights "does not meet the requirements set out by the council."

"First of all, the council has received an oral reply whereas it had specifically asked for a formal and written commitment by Iraq that it will implement unreservedly the provisions of resolution 707. As far as the substance is concerned, the Iraqi Government sticks to the conditions linked to its acceptance of the Security Council resolutions," he said, adding that Iraq never referred to resolution 707 but only the cease-fire resolution (687).

The Security Council instructed Merimee to get in touch with Iraqi foreign Minister Ahmed Hussein and "to demand on behalf of the council, that the inspectors be given the possibility to leave the site with the documents as it is obliged by Security Council resolutions," Merimee said.

Merimee had called in Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Abdul Amir Al-Anbari, twice in less than a week to press upon him that the council expects Iraq to comply unconditionally with its resolution requiring U.N. flights on weapons inspections and express the council's dissatisfaction with Baghdad's interference with the inspections.

Iraq has stopped the U.N.'s attempt to use German helicopters and crews to transport U.N. experts on investigations and to take photos of military installations and other areas of interest to the U.N. Special Commission overseeing the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Iraq said that such flights are a threat to its national security.

After the first council warning earlier this month, Iraq said that it would agree to the overflights if Iraqi officials were allowed on board -- a request that the commission did not reject. However, Iraq insists that the helicopters not fly over Baghdad or take pictures, the inspection missions must last only two weeks, and that the helicopters must be based two and a half hours from the capital.

According to Merimee's report to the council, those conditions still remain. NNNN

File Identification:  09/23/91, PO-107; 09/23/91, EP-113; 09/23/91, EU-107; 09/23/91, NE-110; 09/24/91, NA-207; 09/24/91, AR-204
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Languages:  Arabic
Thematic Codes:  1NE; 1UN; 1AC
Target Areas:  EA; EU; NE; AR
PDQ Text Link:  198246