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Rosemary Hollis
Head of the Middle East programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs
 real 28k

Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 02:21 GMT 03:21 UK
UN faces split over Iraq proposals
Inspectors at Iraqi oil pipeline
The UK proposal would tighten smuggling controls
Britain and Russia have advanced competing resolutions on how the United Nations Security Council should proceed with sanctions against Iraq.

The rival proposals could divide the five permanent members of the Council on whether to overhaul the sanctions regime against the oil-rich, but devastated, nation.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK Ambassador to the UN
The UK wants "smart sanctions"
The UK plan - which has the backing of the United States - proposes allowing all civilian goods into the country, while tightening restrictions on military items and strengthening anti-smuggling measures.

Russia, Iraq's closest ally on the security council, proposes to extend the existing oil-for-food humanitarian programme which needs to be renewed by 4 June.

It also

  • reaffirms Iraq's right to the unrestricted use of commercial flights, sea and railway transport
  • would authorise the return of Iraqi planes which were grounded abroad at the time of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Monday rejected the UK's so-called "smart sanctions", insisting that all controls be dropped.

The US and UK are hoping to push the Security Council to consider the 30-page UK resolution by the end of the month.

Eroding support

Iraq has been under sanctions since it invaded Kuwait 11 years ago, but international support for the embargo has crumbled in the face of the perception that they hurt the Iraqi people more than Saddam Hussein.

The alternative ... is for the sanctions to be lifted

Saddam Hussein
Under the oil-for-food programme, Iraq is allowing to sell limited amounts of oil. The money goes into a UN-controlled escrow account and can be used to purchase food, medicine, and humanitarian goods.

The UK proposal would keep the escrow account in place and use some of the revenues to pay Iraq's UN dues.

The money would also be used to bolster anti-smuggling controls. Iraq is believed to smuggle hundreds of thousands of barrels per day through neighbours Syria, Turkey and Jordan.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has threatened to cut off oil supplies to Jordan and Turkey if they co-operate with the plan.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov
Russia wants to keep the current plan in place
The Iraqi leader was quoted by the official INA news agency as telling a cabinet meeting that he would "reject the so-called 'smart sanctions' which are more stupid than the (current) sanctions".

The sanctions "have failed, but what is the alternative? The alternative ... is for the sanctions to be lifted", Saddam Hussein was quoted as saying.

The Iraqi president said that by pushing for "smart sanctions" the US was admitting the failure of the sanctions regime.

Cost to America

"Although [the sanctions] have hurt Iraq, at the same time it cost America dearly in terms of its international reputation ... and it lost its good relations with the Arab people."

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein says the sanctions have failed
The sanctions were designed to force Saddam Hussein to allow UN weapons inspectors access to Iraq to ensure it did not have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

The inspectors were withdrawn two and a half years ago before an escalation in US-UK bombing of Iraq, and have not been allowed to return.

The UK proposal would allow Iraq to buy civilian goods without letting the weapons inspectors back.

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See also:

21 May 01 | Middle East
Saddam rejects 'smart' sanctions
17 May 01 | Middle East
Allies plan to ease Iraqi sanctions
27 Feb 01 | Middle East
Powell's new plans for Iraq
01 Mar 01 | Middle East
Iraq and UN plan further talks
16 May 01 | Middle East
Iraq's neighbours warned on sanctions
06 May 01 | Middle East
Turkey reopens Iraq rail-link
05 Mar 01 | Middle East
Preparing to do business with Iraq
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