28 April 1998
(Rejects Iraqi claims it has complied with weapons demands) (880) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- After reviewing reports of UN weapons inspectors, the UN Security Council determined April 27 it should not change the sanctions imposed on Iraq after its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The Council held a series of private meetings throughout the day to review the reports of the UN Special Commission overseeing the destruction of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which oversees the elimination of Iraqi's nuclear weapons program. Council members also, for the first time, heard a presentation by Iraq's foreign minister and oil minister who have been in New York for talks with UN officials. Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad al-Sahhaf and Oil Minister Lt. General Amer Rashid said they presented the Council with facts and figures they said support their claim that all of Iraq's banned weapons and weapons programs have been eliminated and sanctions against it should be lifted. U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson said that the United States "thoroughly disagrees" with the Iraqi assessment. "We think that they are not in compliance with Security Council resolutions. There is still concealment, especially in the chemical/biological area. We believe that they cannot get lifting of sanctions by propaganda and making false statements," Richardson said after the Council meeting with the Iraqi ministers. "Sanctions will continue," the ambassador added. After the Council completed the six-month review of the disarmament process, Council President Hisashi Owada of Japan said that "as a result of the discussion there was no consensus to modify the sanctions regime." Owada added that Council members will continue to consult during the week on the Russian proposal to officially comment on Iraq's progress on nuclear disarmament as reported by IAEA and has asked for more data from UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler. "Finally the members of the Council expressed grave concern on the question of the repatriation of all Kuwaiti nationals and the return of all Kuwaiti property seized by Iraq including national archives," Owada said. Richardson also voiced concern over Iraq's lack of progress on repatriation, return of property and other human rights issues. He said, however, that the United States feels it is "premature to close the nuclear file, but we're ready to acknowledge progress in certain areas." "The main message is that sanctions will not be lifted because Iraq has failed to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions," Richardson told journalists outside the Council's chambers. British Ambassador Sir John Weston pointed out that "nobody, nobody around the table is arguing in favor of the immediate lifting of sanctions on Iraq ... because everybody accepts that there are significant areas of incompleteness with respect to missiles, with respect to chemical weapons, and with respect to biological weapons." He also acknowledged that Iraq has made progress in the nuclear weapons area but feels that not all questions have been answered. The Russian draft resolution on the issue, therefore is "unnecessary and unbalanced," he said. Al-Sahhaf told an April 28 press conference he was at the UN to tell Security Council members that Iraq has complied with the gulf war cease-fire demands to eliminate of its chemical, biological, ballistic and nuclear weapons programs. He accused the United States of distorting facts, claimed all banned weapons have been destroyed and demanded the lifting of sanctions "immediately." He also charged that the experts who participated in the technical meetings on biological and chemical weapons programs were "false experts" and "adversaries" controlled by an UNSCOM that is biased against Iraq. These experts concluded in March that the information Iraq had supplied the UN regarding these weapons was incomplete and inadequate. Al-Sahhaf and Raschid also said they interpret the memorandum of understanding signed by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Secretary General Kofi Annan to mean that the U.N. weapons inspectors will not be allowed unlimited visits to the presidential sites. "I am telling you...(U.N. weapons inspectors) will not go there for picnics they will not go there for disarmament procedures. This is a special arrangement," al-Sahhaf said. After the initial visit, al-Sahhaf said, "if they will need for any reason, if they will need, maybe there will be a subsequent visit. That's all." In his April 28 comments to the press, UNSCOM Chairman Butler said that his six-month report to the Council covered the most turbulent period because of Iraq's refusal to grant the U.N. weapons experts access to so-called presidential sites. Following the February signing of the memorandum of understanding between Secretary General Kofi Annan and Iraq's leadership, said Butler, there was an "entirely new spirit of cooperation" from Iraq. However, he added, "regrettably we're not able to report any progress in disarmament in the period." If Iraq were to "give us full cooperation, the remaining material, documents to verify their claims, our promise is that we will do that verification honestly, with high level of competency and as quickly as possible," Butler said. "Iraq has all of that material in its archives (that UNSCOM needs), if they really want this to be over they should give them to us," he said.