Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 6

In the wake of fresh allegations late last week that the United States had secretly obtained intelligence information from the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) disarming Iraq, Moscow has underscored anew its determination both to oust Australian diplomat Richard Butler from the post of UNSCOM chairman and to change the disarmament agency’s mission and operations. Those points were made clear during a television interview on January 8 given by Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN. Lavrov suggested that the latest revelations about Butler bear out Moscow’s long-standing distrust of him. Butler must leave his post, Lavrov insisted. Lavrov said also that UNSCOM’s work there has also been “fully discredited,” and that the UN Security Council must “radically review” the agency’s operations in Iraq. In addition, Lavrov said that the Security Council should investigate the alleged contacts between UNSCOM and U.S. intelligence agencies (Russian Public Television, January 8).

Last week’s revelations have been a godsend for Moscow, which enjoys friendly relations with Baghdad and has long called for an easing of UN sanctions on Iraq. France and China have embraced, in large part, Moscow’s stance on the Iraq issue, a development which has split the UN Security Council down the middle. Britain and the United States have maintained a hard line toward Iraq. Moscow objected with particular ferocity to last month’s U.S. and British air strikes on Iraq, and recalled its ambassadors from Washington and London in protest.

The issue of UN policy toward Iraq is likely to get plenty of attention during French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine’s two-day visit to the Russian capital, scheduled to start today (Russian agencies, January 10). The sympathy of the two countries toward Iraq is conditioned in part by the fact that both Russia and France stand to profit handsomely in the event that the UN lifts its sanctions on Baghdad.