British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook yesterday firmly rejected a proposal for a settlement of the Iraqi crisis. The offer, he said, had been conveyed to him that day during a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. According to Cook, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had agreed to open up some forty-five sites previously declared off-limits by Iraqi authorities to international inspection teams. That would, however, leave a number of other sites apparently still off-limits to inspectors. Moreover, the inspections of the to be opened would, according to Cook, be one-time deals under highly restricted conditions. "The offer is not good enough," Cook was quoted as saying. "For the UN inspection regime to work, it must be unconditional, unrestricted and it must have the right of return to make sure that nothing has happened since the first inspection." (UPI, Reuter, February 5)
It was difficult to assess the import of the Iraqi offer yesterday because, as Cook pointed out, there was no hard information to substantiate it. Indeed, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday confirmed that the conversation between Cook and Primakov had taken place, but said that he did not know where the figure of forty-five sites had come from. Similarly, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in an apparent allusion to the Iraqi offer, announced triumphantly yesterday that tensions had begun to subside in Iraq. But he provided no details as to the substance of the negotiations in Baghdad. (Itar-Tass, February 5)
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine indicated from Paris yesterday that the talks in Baghdad are moving ahead and that Iraq had shown its first signs of flexibility. His reading of the negotiations appeared to differ from Cook’s, however. In any event, he too said that Iraq had not offered enough. Vedrine nevertheless warned that the United States and Britain were becoming isolated in their support for military strikes on Iraq. He said France would not join any military action against Baghdad. (Reuter, February 5)
Yeltsin Criticizes Clinton Over Iraq Policy.