Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 31

Moscow’s official sympathies for Baghdad were in evidence again on February 12 when the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement criticizing continuing U.S. and British military actions in Iraq. The statement expressed concern over increasing incidents of U.S. and British strikes in Iraq’s no-fly zones, and warned that the skirmishes risked exacerbating tensions in the region. The statement also called reports of Iraqi civilian casualties resulting from the air strikes “inadmissible,” and restated Moscow’s contention that the strikes in the no-fly zones are taking place without official UN authorization. The statement suggested, finally, that the air strikes were particularly unwelcome at a time when the UN Security Council appears to be moving forward on formulating a new policy toward Iraq (Itar-Tass, February 12).

That last point refers to a UN Security Council decision to form three new panels to deal with matters related to the ongoing Iraq crisis. Two of the panels–each panel being made up of four senior members of the UN secretariat–will reportedly advise the UN Security Council, respectively, both on the humanitarian situation in Iraq and on the issue of prisoners of war and property seized by Iraq after it invaded Kuwait. The third, more controversial panel will recommend ways to resume the arms monitoring process in Iraq. That panel consists of twenty members, including former members of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM). The panel does not, however, include Richard Butler, the head of UNSCOM. Russia has led the call for his ouster, and Butler has suggested to the press that he will not try to extend his tenure as UNSCOM chief when his two-year contract expires in June (Reuters, February 5).