Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 10

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, yesterday repeated Moscow’s insistence that Richard Butler, chief of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) responsible for the mission to “disarm” Iraq, must be dismissed from his post as soon as possible. Lavrov also called once again both for UN sanctions on Iraq to be lifted and for UNSCOM to be radically reorganized. The Russian diplomat said that Moscow hoped UN Secretary General Kofi Annan would play a more active role in settling the Iraq crisis (Itar-Tass, January 14).

Lavrov’s remarks came as the UN Security Council continued its struggles this week to forge some consensus on policy toward Baghdad in the wake of last month’s U.S. and British air strikes on Iraq. The most noteworthy development was a new proposal from France, formally submitted to council members on January 13. The French proposal stipulates lifting the oil embargo on Iraq and creating a new system of arms monitoring–to be overseen by a “renewed control commission”–which would reportedly have a preventive rather than an investigative role. Language in the proposal pertaining to the new commission is said to borrow heavily from Iraqi and Russian criticisms of UNSCOM, and is aimed at guarding against any undue American influence on the commission.

Not surprisingly, the French proposal is supported by Russia but has, in large part, been rejected by Washingtonthe Monitor. In order to demonstrate its sympathy for Iraq’s suffering civilian population while maintaining pressure on the country’s ruling regime, however, the United States has countered the French proposal with one of its own. This counterproposal would let Baghdad sell unlimited amounts of oil–but only if the proceeds go to buy food and other humanitarian supplies for Iraqis. Russia, meanwhile, is reportedly preparing its yet another proposal–one based in large part on the French one—and hopes to submit it to the Security Council today. Lavrov was quoted as saying that Russia would be dissatisfied with any proposal which does not lift the sanctions on Iraq (AP, January 14).