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Nick Miles reports for BBC News
"Any return of arms inspectors in the short-term seems unlikely"
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Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 04:33 GMT
UN rejects Iraq nominee

UN car in Baghdad UN inspectors are eager to return to Baghdad

The UN Security Council has failed to approve Swedish diplomat Rolf Ekeus as head of the new arms inspection body for Iraq.

Russia, China and France effectively vetoed the appointment of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's choice for the job.

The three countries ruled out Mr Ekeus because of his previous role with the now-disbanded Unscom arms inspection team.

Rolf Ekeus Rolf Ekeus: Preferred candidate
Mr Ekeus was leader of the original commission sent to Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to verify the destruction of weapons of mass destruction.

Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said: "We all decided some months ago to have a new beginning and we don't want associations with Unscom, which discredited itself."

Ambassadors and foreign ministers will now hold further meetings to discuss who should fill the role.

US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said: "This issue will have to get resolved, but I'm not saying how or when."

Protest letters

Russia, China and France sent letters to Mr Holbrooke, the current Security Council president, saying they could not accept Mr Ekeus before the council sat down to discuss the issue.

A French foreign ministry spokesman said: "We question whether he [Mr Ekeus] represents the spirit of renewal and change.

Tariq Aziz Tariq Aziz: No official say
"With that in mind, we are going to issue instructions to our permanent representative in the UN," he added.

The spokesman said France wanted a new body set up which would have more "professionalism, independence and authority".

China's ambassador Qin Huasun, in a letter to the Security Council, did not flatly reject the Ekeus' candidacy.

But he said "my mission is in a difficult position to go along with the nominee of the secretary-general".

Moscow rejected Mr Annan's choice on Monday and called for an urgent debate on the issue.

Iraq, which has no say in the selection procedure, has also criticised Mr Annan's choice.

It renewed its attack on Tuesday, with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz saying: "The recommendation by Mr Kofi Annan to nominate Ekeus for this mission is evidence of bad intention."

Mr Holbrooke said the United States supported Mr Ekeus enthusiastically and that Mr Annan had been "exhaustive, diligent, fair-minded and impartial" throughout the process of finding a candidate.

First in a series of steps

It lies with Mr Annan to make the final choice, but the UN resolution mandating the appointment states that it should be made in consultation with council members and requires their approval.

Finding an acceptable person to head the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) is only the first in a series of steps designed to get UN arms inspectors back into Iraq after a 13-month absence.

Under the new resolution, the UN offers Baghdad the possibility of suspending the sanctions, which were first imposed in August 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Iraq has said that it has already destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction and it will not accept a new arms control body

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See also:
17 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Saddam defiant over Gulf War
15 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Iraqi paper slams UN over arms inspector
17 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: UN divided over Iraq
17 Dec 99 |  Middle East
UN offers Iraq sanctions deal
18 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Iraq rejects UN resolution

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