A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday that Moscow has repeatedly called upon authorities in Iraq to comply with UN Security Council resolutions, but that Russia nevertheless continues to oppose any use of force in order to compel compliance by Baghdad. According to Gennady Tarasov, the Russian government has urged Baghdad to abandon its October 29 decision barring U.S. members from a UN weapons inspection team, and has also backed a UN move to dispatch a special mission to Iraq with that same goal in mind. But Moscow is also working within the Security Council, Tarasov made clear, to head off any military actions against Iraq. He confirmed that Moscow’s efforts, along with those of China, Egypt, and France, had been instrumental in the weakening of a UN resolution criticizing Iraq that was issued on November 12. (Itar-Tass, November 13)
That statement condemns Baghdad for its initial October 29 order barring the U.S. inspectors and demands that it be rescinded immediately and unconditionally. It also bans foreign travel by Iraqi officials who interfere with the UN inspections, and warns of possible additional measures should Iraq fail to comply. But the warning does not make explicit mention of possible military reprisals. U.S. diplomats, who had sought stronger language, reportedly went along with the resolution’s wording in order to maintain unity on the Security Council. But Bill Richardson, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, announced yesterday that Washington is "not precluding any options, including the military option." Some U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary William Cohen, have argued that existing Security Council resolutions permit the U.S. to intervene militarily in Iraq, without additional council authorization, in the event that Iraq violates the terms of the cease-fire ending the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
That threat is likely to be tested. The Iraqi government immediately rejected the Security Council’s demands, announced that the six Americans serving on the UN special commission would "definitely" be removed from Iraq, and then, yesterday, ordered them out of the country. Baghdad’s actions seem likely to increase tensions between the U.S. and those Security Council members who are more sympathetic to Iraq. The U.S. has long been at odds on Iraqi policy with France and Russia, each of which would like to resuscitate the once extensive economic and military ties it had with Baghdad. The divide between Washington, on the one hand, and Paris and Moscow on the other, has been further widened by a recent clash over a French-Russian (and Malaysian) gas deal with Iran. Washington opposes that project, and U.S. threats to level punitive sanctions against the French and Russian companies involved has generated considerable animosity in Russia and throughout Europe in general. (The Washington Post, Western agencies, Itar-Tass, November 13)
Belarusan Agriculture Officials Arrested.