Magazine article Arms Control Today

UN Security Council Sets Terms for 'Closing' Nuclear File on Iraq

Magazine article Arms Control Today

UN Security Council Sets Terms for 'Closing' Nuclear File on Iraq

Article excerpt

EFFORTS TO LIFT the international economic sanctions on Iraq picked up momentum in May, with the UN Security Council adopting two decisions based on Baghdad's recent cooperation with UNmandated efforts to eliminate its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles. On May 7, a never-implemented travel ban on Iraqi officials imposed in November 1997 was lifted, and a week later, the Security Council issued a statement setting the terms for closing investigations into Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program by the end of July.

The future of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inquiry into Iraq's covert nuclear weapons program has been in question since the agency made its last biannual report to the Security Council in April. Stating that inspectors had found "no indication of prohibited equipment, materials or activities" in the last six months, the agency recommended shifting its efforts to a long-term intrusive monitoring program. Russian, French and Chinese diplomats have used the April report to justify their efforts to close the "nuclear file." The United States and Britain have resisted these attempts, however, citing unanswered questions about Iraq's success in weapons design, uranium enrichment options, and post-Gulf War nuclear procurement and concealment activities.

U.S. and Russian diplomats reportedly agreed to a compromise on the nuclear issue on May 12. Subsequently, the president of the Security Council issued a statement May 14 that would allow the IAEA to switch over to long-term monitoring if it can provide answers to the remaining nuclear questions in a special July status report, or in its next biannual report due in October. Washington's hard-line approach to Iraq's UN-mandated disarmament has been increasingly under attack from other Security Council members eager to reintegrate Iraq into the international community. …

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