The Russian government yesterday stepped up its verbal attacks on UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) chief Richard Butler. It also called for a UN investigation into reports that U.S. intelligence agencies had made improper use of the UN weapons inspection operations in Iraq. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin, expanding on remarks Russia’s ambassador to the UN made over the weekend (see the Monitor, January 11), said that Moscow is demanding the immediate and unconditional resignation of Butler from his post as UNSCOM head. Rakhmanin charged that Butler had completely “discredited” the UN agency. “We believe that… Butler cannot remain UNSCOM chairman and that its [UNSCOM’s] activity demands appropriate radical reform.” In addition, Rakhmanin called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to carry out a thorough investigation into the allegations of UNSCOM’s spying activities (UPI, Russian agencies, January 11).
Rakhmanin’s tone was considerably less condemnatory, however, when he responded to several potentially threatening statements which Iraq’s government and parliament made on January 10. The authorities in Baghdad had accused Saudi Arabia and Kuwait of being involved in last month’s U.S. and British air strikes on Iraq, and had urged the populations in those Arab countries to replace their political leaders. Iraq’s parliament, meanwhile, passed a resolution calling for further discussions on all UN resolutions pertaining to Iraq issued since the close of the 1991 Gulf War. The resolution did stop short of including a demand that Baghdad withdraw recognition of Kuwait, a move which many in the parliament reportedly support (Reuters, January 11).
Addressing those developments in Baghdad yesterday, Rakhmanin said only that Moscow hoped “Iraqi leaders will display a responsible approach” to relations between Baghdad and the UN. Rakhmanin said that Moscow views the resolution passed by the Iraqi parliament “recommendatory” (Itar-Tass, January 11).
Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), meanwhile, interjected its two cents’ worth yesterday into the controversy over alleged ties between UNSCOM and U.S. intelligence agencies. An SVR spokeswoman told reporters that the recent revelations were no surprise to Moscow. The SVR had warned several months ago, the spokeswoman said, that UNSCOM “was, from the time of its creation, literally stuffed with operatives of the American special services” (Russian agencies, January 11).
Moscow’s statements came amid newly heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf. U.S. fighter jets bombed a missile site in northern Iraq yesterday in the latest in a series of confrontations in the “no fly” zones policed by U.S. and British aircraft. Also yesterday, Kuwait said that it had put a portion of its military forces on full alert in response to Baghdad’s January 10 threats. Addressing those threats, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen warned that Washington was prepared to take military action if Baghdad threatened Kuwait, other Arab states or its own population (Reuters, January 11).
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