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Monday, December 21, 1998 Published at 16:49 GMT


Timeline of the Iraqi crisis

The countdown to crisis has stopped several times, only to start again


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The Gulf War ended at 0500 GMT on February 28,1991. The US-led coalition began a ceasefire and Baghdad ordered its troops to stop fighting. But since then, Iraq has remained at loggerheads with the United Nations and the Americans in particular.

There have been arguments over the work of the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq (UNSCOM) weapons inspectors, oil, the no-fly zones, and the rights of Shi'ite and Kurdish people living in the region. But the latest crisis stems from Iraq's exasperation with sanctions imposed after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The UN put forward a series of proposals designed to ensure that Iraq is fulfilling its commitments to destroy weapons of mass destruction in June this year. Their elimination is a pre-condition for the lifting of UN sanctions which have crippled the economy by banning the country's economic mainstay - the free sale of oil.

Key dates and stories

October 29, 1997 - Iraq bars American weapons inspectors from the country after the UN Security Council passes a resolution threatening to stop Iraqi officials travelling abroad.
Iraq expels Americans

October 31, 1997 - Iraq reiterates that it is ready, if necessary, to face US military action over its decision to expel the weapons inspectors. Russia and France believe a solution can be found to the crisis.
Russia rejects use of force
Iraq urged to backdown

November 3, 1997 - Iraq warns it will shoot down U2 spy planes flying over its territory in support of UN weapons inspectors.
Iraq threatens US planes

November 20, 1997 - Russian Foreign Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, brokers a compromise in the crisis between Iraq and the UN. The US, Russia, France, Britain, China meet through the night to work out the deal which allows the inspectors to return to Baghdad. However, UNSCOM inspectors return only to find they are barred from presidential sites.
Iraq settlement seen as "brilliant victory" for Russian diplomacy

January 2, 1998 - A grenade attack is launched against the headquarters of UNSCOM in Baghdad. The Iraqi regime condemns the attack saying it was the act of saboteurs hostile to Iraq.

January 13, 1998 - Iraq blocks an inspection by an American dominated team. It accuses the leader of the team, Scott Ritter, of spying for the US.
Iraq bans weapons inspectors

January 23, 1998 - Richard Butler, UNSCOM chairman, addresses the UN security Council and presents a bleak report. Iraq will provide no new information on its weapons programme.
UN discusses continuing crisis over Iraq

January 28, 1998 - President Clinton delivers his State of the Union address, and says the US is prepared to carry out a military attack against Iraq.
Clinton address applauded

February 9, 1998 - The Arab League puts forward proposals to end the crisis. It says the inspection teams should be chosen by UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
Arab bid to solve Iraqi crisis

February 11, 1998 - The Iraqi government supports a Russian proposal which would give UNSCOM access to eight presidential sites to carry out one-off inspections. The idea is rejected by both the US and Britain.
Iraqi concessions 'unacceptable'

February 13, 1998 - The United States insists it will not walk away from stopping Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction, and Russian objections would not prevent use of force. Russia says diplomatic effort should not end before Kofi Annan visits Baghdad.
Russia warns US against military action

February 17, 1998 - Kofi Annan wins Security Council approval for a peace mission to Baghdad but the US reserves the right to disagree with the results. President Clinton says a solution must ensure unfettered access for weapons inspections.
Clinton 'prepared to act'

February 20, 1998 - Annan arrives in Baghdad, saying he has a "sacred duty" to try to defuse the crisis. In Jordan, a bystander is killed in clashes between police and a crowd of worshippers demonstrating in support of Iraq.
Annan arrives on 'sacred' peace mission

February 22, 1998 - The UN secretary general holds a three-hour meeting with Saddam Hussein, and the UN later announces a deal on weapons inspections. The US says it will await Kofi Annan's formal report to the Security Council.
US keeps veto option open

February 23, 1998 - Kofi Annan formally announces the agreement in joint news conference with Tariq Aziz. Iraq says it was diplomacy, not sabre-rattling, that helped conclude the agreement.
Annan signs deal with Iraq

February 26, 1998 - American Republicans claim that President Clinton has handed Washington's policy on Iraq over to the United Nations.
US:Can Clinton sell Iraqi deal?

February 27, 1998 - Richard Butler endorses the agreement, while Kofi Annan tells UN staff not to be disheartened by criticism of the deal.
UN weapons inspector supports Annan's Iraq deal

March 3, 1998 - The United States and Britain say that the UN Security Council has reached agreement on a resolution warning Iraq of "severest consequences" if it fails to honour the agreement.

March 26, 1998 - UN weapons experts accompanied by diplomats begin a two-week series of inspections of Iraqi presidential sites.

April 3, 1998 - Inspectors complete their initial search of the eight presidential sites with a visit to President Saddam Hussein's main palace in Baghdad.
Initial searches end

April 9, 1998 - A UN report claims Iraq is continuing to hold back information about its germ warfare programme.
Iraq still holding back on weapons

April 17, 1998 - UN inspectors say they have made no progress in verifying whether Iraq has destroyed its weapons of mass destruction.

April 18, 1998 - The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf describes UN inspectors report as "baseless and boring" and calls for a time limit to be set on inspections.
Iraq calls for time limit

April 28, 1998 - UN decides that it is too early to lift sanctions against Iraq, renewing the embargo for another six months. But the US acknowledges progress in the access to presidential and sensitive sites.
Iraq sanctions stay

May 1, 1998 - In an open letter to the Security Council, Iraq warns of grave consequences if UN sanctions against it are not lifted.

May 20, 1998 - Weapons inspectors resume their search for Iraqi chemical warheads.

May 26, 1998 - Richard Butler says he intends to draw up a list of outstanding issues that must be addressed by Baghdad to see sanctions lifted by October. On the same day the US announces it is to cut its forces in the Gulf.
Official sets out sanctions 'road map'
US cuts Gulf forces

June 11, 1998 - After presenting proposed disarmament measures to the Security Council, UN weapons inspectors arrive in Baghdad for talks aimed at ending international sanctions.

June 15, 1998 - The UN and Iraq strike a two-month deal which would verify disarmament and pave the way towards the lifting of sanctions.
UN secures disarmament deal
Iraq welcomes UN deal

June 19, 1998 - The Security Council approves a resolution allowing Iraq to spend $300m on importing spare parts to improve its oil facilities.
UN approves Iraqi oil spend
Iraq warms to oil offer

June 24, 1998 - Richard Butler confirms reports that traces of the nerve gas VX has been found in Iraqi missile fragments. Iraq had always insisted it had not weaponised VX.
UN confirms nerve gas reports
Iraq rejects nerve gas claims

June 30, 1998 - An American fighter plane opens fire on an Iraqi missile site. The US Defence Department says the action was taken after four British Tornado military jets were illuminated by Iraqi radar.
US plane targets Iraqi missile site
Iraq condemns 'US aggression'

July 30, 1998 - Iraq warns that it will take unspecified action unless the UN embargo is lifted. A statement issued after a meeting of Iraqi leaders said the visit by Richard Butler the following week would be crucial.

August 4, 1998 - Richard Butler leaves Baghdad after talks collapse on proposals designed to ensure Iraq is fulfilling its committments to destroy weapons of mass destruction. Tariq Aziz said it was pointless becoming involved in an unending process to prove what the Iraqis had already shown.
Iraq arms talks collapse

September 29, 1998 - UN arms inspector Scott Ritter tells the BBC why he left the international team investigating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Inspector condemns UN

October 27, 1998 - Richard Butler, says tests carried out by international scientists confirm that Iraq filled missile warheads with the deadly nerve agent VX before the 1991 Gulf War.
UN says Iraq made deadly weapons

October 28, 1998 - The Iraqi army embarks on a training exercise to enable hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens to defend themselves.
Iraqi army starts mass training

October 31, 1998 - The Iraqi leadership says it has ceased all co-operation with investigations and monitoring by the UN Special Commission.
Iraq stops Unscom

November 10, 1998 The United States warns that Iraq will be able to rebuild its weapons programme in a matter of months unless the international community takes action over its obstruction of UN weapons inspections.
Iraq could rearm 'in months'

November 11, 1998 The United Nations withdraws all non-essential personnel from Iraq, amid speculation that the United States is preparing a military attack.
UN withdraws staff from Iraq

November 14, 1998 Iraq sends letter to the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan offering to allow UN weapons inspections to resume.
Iraq backs down

November 17, 1998 UN weapons inspectors return to Iraq after Baghdad's promise to allow them to continue their work narrowly averts air strikes.
Inspectors return

December 10, 1998 Inspectors vow to press on with surprise inspections despite a dispute with Baghdad over access.
Inspectors in new row

December 16, 1998 The UN orders weapons inspectors out of Iraq hours after the chief UN weapons inspector, Richard Butler, issued a report complaining that the Iraqis were still failing to co-operate.
UN orders inspectors out

December 16-19, 1998 Hundreds of cruise missiles are fired into Iraq by US forces, marking the start of strikes to punish the Baghdad government for obstructing the work of the UN weapons inspectors.
US strikes Baghdad
Full coverage of strikes and their aftermath




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In this section

Timeline of the Iraqi crisis

Frustrated at every turn

Oil-for-food scheme no cure-all

A people suffering under sanctions

Busting Iraq's oil smugglers