UN and Iraq Agree on Arms Monitoring, Set Stage for Talks Some Issues Remain, but Breakthrough Allows Dialogue on Oil, Sanctions Removal

Article excerpt

IRAQ'S acceptance of long-term monitoring of its weapons program, announced here Monday after arduous negotiations with a top United Nations official, appears to set the tone for a less-conflictive phase in Baghdad's relations with the UN.

Though many difficult issues remain unresolved, Rolf Ekeus, head of the UN special commission overseeing Iraq's disarmament, said his five days of talks with Iraqi officials have averted the immediate threat of a military strike by Western forces and laid the groundwork for continued dialogue.

"This is the start to a process," Mr. Ekeus told reporters here before returning to New York yesterday. "Both sides agree we should nurture the process ... and not take risks to destroy it."

The breakthrough came late Sunday, Ekeus said, when Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said his government "is ready to comply with the plans of ongoing monitoring and verification" of its arms program. Over the past year of discussions with the UN, Iraq has consistently refused to accept Security Council Resolution 715, setting out the monitoring procedures. Baghdad's concession yesterday, Ekeus said, "is a very important statement. We have broken out of the vicious circle."

He was cautious, however, about the prospects for a lifting of international trade sanctions against Iraq, which is Baghdad's top priority.

"This is a very broad and complex issue," Ekeus said, and Iraq has still not complied with some of its requirements under Security Council Resolution 687, which calls for the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The UN is still waiting for "full disclosure of all its weapons and all its production facilities, and we are not satisfied as yet this is the case," he said. …


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