Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 176

Despite some faint hope that a diplomatic breakthrough might be looming, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council failed to reach agreement this week on a set of principles defining a new UN policy toward Iraq. In what some diplomats interpreted as a far more modest step forward, the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia did manage yesterday to complete work on a joint statement which pledged continued efforts toward the drafting of a UN resolution on Iraq. The statement also called for “full implementation of the relevant Council resolutions” and “underlined the need for the adoption of a new comprehensive resolution based upon the disarmament and humanitarian objectives of the Council.” This bland formulation appeared to be a retreat from an earlier version of the statement, which reportedly had stated that Iraq must live up to obligations–including the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction–before international sanctions are lifted.

UN policy toward Baghdad has been paralyzed since last December’s U.S. and British air raids on Iraq, which left the Security Council divided and its members–despite months of negotiations–unable to reach a consensus on a new policy toward Iraq. Diplomatic efforts were stepped up this month, however, in the hope that a common position might be worked out by the time the five permanent UN Security Council members convened for a scheduled meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. That meeting took place yesterday afternoon. China’s ambassador to the UN, Shen Guofang, told reporters afterward that the five permanent Council members had “tried very hard to narrow [their] differences, but they [the differences] are still there.” The most nettlesome of the problems confronting the Council is reported to be fashioning a mechanism by which the sanctions on Iraq are to be lifted. The Council members most sympathetic to Iraq–Russia and China–would like to see sanctions on Iraq lifted, not merely suspended, once a new arms monitoring regime is functioning in that country. Britain and the Netherlands, backed by the United States, have tabled a draft resolution which calls only for suspending the oil embargo if Baghdad authorities answer key questions about the country’s weapons’ programs. The British-Dutch proposal is also believed to call for a more intrusive arms monitoring regime than the one proposed by Russia and China.

France, which has also been a key backer of Baghdad and a cosponsor, along with China and Russia, of the draft resolution more sympathetic to Iraq, has reportedly moved closer to the British position in recent months. Reports earlier this week, moreover, quoted U.S. diplomats as suggesting that Moscow was now the primary obstacle to an agreement on Iraq among the five permanent Council members. The British-Dutch draft resolution is said to have the support of the Council’s nonpermanent members (AP, Reuters, UPI, September 23).