USIS Washington 

07 May 1998


(Move opens way to end travel ban on Iraqi officials) (470)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The head of the Special Commission overseeing the
destruction of Iraqi weapons (UNSCOM) officially notified the Security
Council May 6 that Iraq has granted weapons experts unrestricted and
unconditional access to all sites, thus paving the way for ending a
six-month ban on Iraqi officials traveling abroad.

The ban, which was never enforced, will terminate automatically, a UN
official said.

In a letter to the council, UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler said that
having studied the facts in recent weapons inspections, he found that
"Iraq has granted unrestricted and unconditional access to all those
sites that the commission has wished to inspect, including sites
designated by Iraq as 'sensitive' and 'presidential.'"

"Iraq has also granted the commission unrestricted access to various
equipment the commission wished to inspect," Butler said.

Thus, according to a November 1997 council resolution, the travel
sanctions imposed on Iraqi officials for obstructing UN weapons
inspections should end, the UNSCOM chairman said.

US Ambassador Bill Richardson called the action "a routine matter,"
noting that the sanctions were never implemented.

"We respect the view of Ambassador Butler. ... That's his conclusion,"
Richardson said.

The ambassador nevertheless called attention to the UNSCOM chairman's
comment that Iraq still had failed to provide access to records
requested by the commission.

On November 12, 1997, condemning Iraq for a pattern of blocking
weapons inspections, the Security Council unanimously voted to tighten
sanctions against Baghdad by targeting Iraqi officials. The action
came during a period in which Iraq expelled all Americans working for
UNSCOM and then escalated the problem, blocking inspections,
threatening to shoot down UNSCOM reconnaissance flights, and rebuffing
efforts by a special UN mission to gain access for UNSCOM experts.

Adopting resolution number 1137, the council imposed an immediate
travel ban on Iraqi officials and military officers who had a part in
blocking the UNSCOM inspections.

UNSCOM was to draw up a list of Iraqi civilian and military officials
affected by the sanctions. However, the UN said that due to the
pressure of escalating events between the imposition of sanctions and
time the situation was defused in February 1998, no list was ever

The resolution also provided that the travel ban would end one day
after the UNSCOM chairman reported to the Security Council that Iraq
is "allowing the special commission team immediate, unconditional and
unrestricted access to any and all areas, facilities, equipment,
records and means of transportation ... as well as to officials and
other persons ... when the commission wishes to interview."

UNSCOM has been able to inspect sites previously off-limits to weapons
experts after Secretary General Kofi Annan undertook a special mission
to Baghdad in February 1998.