Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 218

Russia claimed a diplomatic victory early this morning after an initiative orchestrated by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov brought an apparent end to the three-week stand-off between Iraq and the UN. "That’s what Russia achieved… without any use of violence, any use of weapons, without a show of force, it was achieved through diplomatic means," Primakov declared to reporters in Geneva. The announcement of success followed several days of frenetic diplomatic maneuvering that finally brought the foreign ministers of France, Britain, the U.S., and Russia — along with a Chinese envoy — to talks that took place in Geneva early this morning. Iraqi deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz had traveled to Moscow on Tuesday, where he met with President Boris Yeltsin and held at least two negotiating sessions with Primakov. Primakov announced yesterday that Russia had produced a plan for ending the stalemate, and, as Aziz headed back to Iraq, Primakov moved to organize the meeting in Geneva.

Details of the Russian-brokered plan have still not been made public, but the Iraqi government announced in Baghdad today that it had agreed to the return of the entire UN weapons inspection team and the immediate resumption of its work. The crisis had begun on October 29 when Iraq ordered American members of the UN team out of the country. The UN group monitors Baghdad’s compliance with UN resolutions barring it from possessing weapons of mass destruction, and sanctions on Iraq cannot be lifted until the weapons inspectors certify that Baghdad has complied.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva today, U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright emphasized that no concessions had been made to Iraq, and she cautioned that the UN and U.S. would watch Baghdad carefully to see that it follows through on its latest commitments. Diplomatic sources in the U.S., meanwhile, suggested that the UN weapons inspection team might be reorganized so as to reduce the number of its American members. That has been one of Iraq’s demands, and Washington had earlier signaled its flexibility on the issue. Baghdad had also complained that its compliance with UN resolutions had failed to bring the lifting of sanctions any closer, and had won support from Russia and France that it be provided with some sort of "light at the end of the tunnel" with regard to sanctions. Yesterday’s announcement in Baghdad suggested that Moscow had committed itself to continue working for the lifting of sanctions on Iraq. (AP, November 20) The U.S. has been among the countries arguing in the UN that Iraq’s record of compliance with the weapons inspection team is in fact a dismal one.

Chubais Gets Temporary Stay of Execution.