Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 220

Only days after it had brokered an apparent settlement to the crisis in the Persian Gulf, Russia was in large part rebuffed over the weekend as it sought to move the UN toward an early easing of sanctions on Iraq. The Russian setback, which came as UN weapons inspectors resumed their activities in Iraq, occurred during a marathon meeting on November 21-22 of the UN commission responsible for eliminating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. UNSCOM, as the commission is known, deflected proposals by its Russian member, Gennady Gatilov, that called for the commission to certify that Iraq has scrapped its nuclear weapons program and that the number of non-American experts employed by UNSCOM be increased.

Russia had itself initiated the commission’s meeting, apparently with the intent of acting on pledges that it had made to Baghdad last week. The UNSCOM report, which was presented to the Security Council on November 22, backed Washington in declaring that Iraq has repeatedly undermined the mission of the UN weapons inspectors and in recommending that the inspections should be even more intrusive. The report did speak of "broadening the international nature of the inspection teams," but reportedly said nothing about limiting the number of Americans on it. U.S. and British diplomats had warned on November 22 that the Russian initiative would politicize the weapons inspection program. On November 21 U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright said that, despite its success last week in mediating the Iraqi crisis, Moscow still lacks the diplomatic muscle to get the sanctions on Iraq lifted. (Western news agencies, November 21-23; The Washington Post, November 23)

The jousting between Moscow and Washington, evident at the UN, was also reflected in a November 22 telephone conversation between the Presidents of Russia and the U.S. During the talk, Russian president Boris Yeltsin reportedly cited humanitarian grounds in urging that UN sanctions on Iraq be gradually lifted and that there also be an easing of the weapons inspections. A U.S. official said that President Bill Clinton had rebuffed the Russian proposal and insisted that Baghdad must comply fully with the terms of the accord that ended the 1991 Gulf War before an easing of sanctions can occur. (Reuter, AP, November 22)

Yeltsin Promotes Defense Minister.