Russia and other members of the deeply divided UN Security Council resumed consultations yesterday on policy toward Baghdad in the wake of last week’s U.S. and British air strikes on Iraq. Diplomatic sources suggested that the talks would most likely be long and difficult. At present, Russia and France appear to be taking the lead in an effort to refashion or dissolve the UN commission disarming Iraq–UNSCOM–and to propose a regime of future weapons inspections which would be far less intrusive. The two countries are also reportedly looking to oust UNSCOM chief Richard Butler. Moscow has called publicly for Butler’s removal.
The Russian-French efforts are likely to butt up against those of the United States and Britain. Washington and London are arguing that the weapons inspection process should resume only if iron-clad guarantees are given that UNSCOM inspectors can do their job without interference from Iraqi authorities. The United States and Britain intend, in the meantime, to maintain their military forces in the Gulf and to pursue what they say is a more vigorous policy of isolating Baghdad. Iraqi authorities yesterday appeared to rule out any resumption of UNSCOM’s activities, particularly if Butler remains as chief (AP, Reuters, Itar-Tass, December 21).
In Moscow, meanwhile, the hysteria over developments in the Persian Gulf has apparently quieted a bit. Foreign Ministry sources indicated yesterday that Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Yuly Vorontsov, will return to Washington in the next day or two. Yuri Fokin, the Russian ambassador to Britain, is to return to London by the end of this week, the sources said (Russian agencies, December 21). Moscow had recalled the two ambassadors to protest the U.S.-British strikes on Iraq. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, meanwhile, made the dubious suggestion yesterday that Russia’s “tough stance” on Iraq could actually help Moscow in its efforts to win financial assistance from the IMF and other international financial organizations. He did not elaborate.
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said during a television interview Sunday evening (December 20) that the international community ought to comment on the U.S.-British strikes on Iraq. But Ivanov did not say how that was to come about. Russian diplomatic sources were quoted yesterday as saying that Russia would not raise the question of condemning the United States and Britain before the UN Security Council (Russian agencies, December 21).
MILITARY CONSEQUENCES OF IRAQ DEVELOPMENTS DISCUSSED.