Security Council may reform sanctions on Iraq to increase pressure
The Security Council is close to agreement on the need to reform sanctions on Iraq with the goal of increasing pressure on Baghdad to let UN arms inspectors back into the country, diplomats said.
But the diplomats, representing three different council members, said it was far from certain the reform would be adopted before Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri meets UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Wednesday.
"Our hope is to have something done by tomorrow, but it's not clear that's going to happen. We're not there yet," a diplomat told AFP.
He was referring to discussions on a review list, meant to prevent Iraq from importing goods with a military potential under the United Nations oil-for-food program.
Annan and Sabri are to resume talks on the return of the arms inspectors, a precondition for lifting the sanctions.
Saddam's government has not allowed the inspectors to set foot in Iraq since December 1998, when they were withdrawn on the eve of a bombing campaign by the United States and Britain.
In Baghdad, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz told reporters Monday it was "too early" to speak about the return of inspectors, while Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said the weapons they were looking for "exist no longer."
Iraqi officials have said they want Sabri's talks with Annan to focus on the removal of sanctions and on the "no-fly zones" patrolled by British and US warplanes, as well as on the logistics of arms inspections.
At the March 7 meeting, Iraq gave a list of 19 questions to Annan which he passed on to members of the Security Council. UN officials said few answers had been given to Annan.
On his way to New York, Sabri met Monday in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who said "Iraq has made a series of proposals" for lifting sanctions "which seem interesting to us." (Albawaba.com)
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