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Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
France warns Iraq over arms inspectors
School in Baghdad
Education levels have plummeted in the last 10 years
By Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

France has warned Iraq that the 10-year-old sanctions imposed by the United Nations will not be lifted unless Baghdad allows UN arms inspectors back into the country.

The warning came during a meeting in New York between the French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, and Iraq's Deputy Prime minister, Tariq Aziz.

Tariq Aziz
Tariq Aziz: Iraq remains defiant
Mr Vedrine said he told Mr Aziz that the only solution for Iraq was to comply with Resolution 1284.

That resolution, passed by the UN Security Council in December, said sanctions would be eased if Iraq allowed a new team of arms inspectors into the country.

Hawks and doves

But Iraq has refused to comply with the resolution, and the French foreign minister said his talks with Mr Aziz revealed no change in the Iraqi position.

France is in a special position because of its long and close ties to Baghdad.

It is trying to place itself between the hawks on the Iraq issue - Britain and the US - and the doves - Russia and China.

Along with much of world opinion, France is against maintaining the sanctions imposed 10 years ago when Iraq invaded its neighbour Kuwait.

Mr Vedrine called the sanctions primitive, cruel, outdated and economically absurd.

'Airspace violation'

Although it abstained when Resolution 1284 was put to the vote, France is now seeking to use its influence to bring about a change of heart in Baghdad.

But, so far, the Iraqi response has been one of defiance.

This impression was reinforced on Wednesday by American officials who claimed that an Iraqi fighter plane last week flew into Saudi air space.

They described this alleged action as a deliberate provocation on the eve of the UN's Millennium Summit in New York.

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See also:

31 Aug 00 | Middle East
Arms inspectors ready for business
15 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iraq rejects new arms monitors
02 Aug 00 | Middle East
West split on Iraq
01 Mar 00 | Middle East
UN's new Iraq arms chief
14 Feb 00 | Middle East
'Lost generation' faces bleak future
15 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iraq: Second UN official resigns
08 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iraq sanctions 'a tragedy'
18 Apr 00 | World
UN wants more humane sanctions
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