UN officials indicated late last week that Moscow has made a move to have a Russian appointed as a deputy to Richard Butler, the chairman of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) overseeing weapons inspections in Iraq. Butler, an Australian, currently has one deputy — American Charles Duelfer. The Russian request was reportedly contained in a letter sent on March 4 by Russia’s UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. While Lavrov refused to comment on reports of the letter, a Russian deputy representative to the UN on March 6 confirmed the gist of the Russian request. He stated that it was part of an effort by Moscow to increase the effectiveness of UNSCOM. A spokesman for the UN secretary general suggested on the same day that the request was being considered. (UPI, March 5; AP, Itar-Tass, March 6)
The U.S. reaction to the news was negative. Bill Richardson, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, said that the United States would veto the request if it came before the security council. He reiterated U.S. support for UNSCOM and said that the such decisions should be left up to Butler. He and other Washington officials suggested that Moscow’s efforts represented an attempt to politicize the UN commission. (Reuter, March 8)
Moscow’s request was not unexpected. Particularly since brokering a short-lived settlement between Iraq and the UN last fall, Russian diplomats have echoed Baghdad’s own criticism of UNSCOM as an anti-Iraqi organization dominated by the United States and Britain. Like officials in Baghdad, Russian diplomats have also called for the addition of new personnel to UNSCOM. Last fall, they submitted a list of Russian experts for consideration as weapons inspectors. U.S. officials have interpreted these and other Moscow actions as an effort to undermine UNSCOM’s authority and to politicize its activities. Sanctions cannot be lifted on Iraq until UNSCOM certifies that Iraq has eliminated its weapons of destruction.
Moscow May Build Two More Reactors for Iran.