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Friday, 17 December, 1999, 18:38 GMT
Analysis: UN divided over Iraq

Iraq says sanctions hitting children

By world affairs correspondent Nick Childs

The UN Security Council vote on a new resolution on Iraq is the culmination of months of difficult diplomacy between the major powers.

At issue has been how to revive UN inspections to check for banned Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, while at the same time offering the prospect that UN sanctions imposed on the country when it invaded Kuwait in 1990 could be eased in return for Iraqi co-operation.

Iraq insists sanctions should be lifted now because it says it has complied with UN demands.

UN policy on Iraq has been stalled for the past year. Last December, in the last big stand-off with Baghdad, co-operation between the UN weapons inspectors and Iraq finally collapsed, the inspectors withdrew, and the United States and Britain launched a four-day air and missile campaign against Iraqi targets in response.

The weapons inspectors have never returned, and the big powers in the Security Council have been at odds over how to proceed.

Permanent five divided

The Basra oil refinery in southern Iraq Iraq is allowed to export $5.2m of oil every six months
Of the Security Council's five permanent, veto-holding members, the United States and Britain have been insisting that an effective weapons inspection process must be re-established. Russia, France, and China have been more sympathetic to the idea of an early lifting of sanctions.

So the permanent five have been arguing over what sort of weapons inspection process can now be put in place, and how far and how fast to go in offering to suspend sanctions in return for Iraqi co-operation.

Against this background, Washington and London have been pursuing what has been in effect a policy of limited military containment of Iraq through air patrols.

But the United States in particular has been increasingly anxious about the absence of inspectors on the ground.

The Americans and the British have also faced pressure from critics who have argued that the tactic of limited air strikes cannot go on, and that continued sanctions are simply harming ordinary Iraqis.

But the Baghdad government, which has been pressing for the immediate lifting of sanctions, also knows that that is not going to happen in the short term without a consensus in the Security Council.

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17 Dec 99 |  Middle East
UN offers Iraq sanctions deal

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