Iraq warned neighbors on Saturday, May 5, not to cooperate with US-sponsored "smart sanctions" — a tighter arms embargo coupled with relaxed controls on civilian good imports — or they would lose trade with Baghdad.
"Any country that deals with the new American plan will lose its trade dealings with Iraq," Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz told reporters. “Any country that wants to maintain its national interest through trade with Iraq will reject (this) American plan," said Aziz, who is also acting foreign minister. He was referring to a US plan that would tighten controls on Iraq's borders to curb illicit trade with its neighbors.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday he was making progress toward a new package of sanctions against Iraq and hoped to change the system when the United Nations reviews the decade-old sanctions regime in June.
Few details of the US plan have been disclosed. The Washington Post reported in March the plan would entail posting UN monitors outside Iraqi borders and at key foreign airports. Countries neighboring Iraq would be enticed to cooperate in exchange for the chance to buy Iraqi oil at discounted prices, according to the Washington daily. Some or all of their payments might be deposited into special accounts that Iraq could use only to buy imports from these neighbors, such as Jordan, Syria and Turkey.
Baghdad currently maintains strong trade links with Jordan, Syria and Turkey despite the UN trade embargo imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Under special arrangements exempted from the UN sanctions, Baghdad has supplied Jordan with all its oil needs since 1990. In return Amman exports various civilian commodities to Baghdad. Syria and Turkey import Iraqi oil outside the UN sanctions system, paying cash directly to the Baghdad government and not to the UN escrow account.
"The so-called 'smart sanctions' plan is a political game launched by the United States in order to find a way out for its failing policy on Iraq," Aziz said. "I believe that neighboring countries will not deal with these American proposals because they will suffer economic losses."
The new proposals were the theme of Powell's trip to the Middle East in February, his first major trip abroad. Since then U. officials have said they continue to work on the details. — (Reuters, Baghdad)
By Hassan Hafidh
© Reuters 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)