No illusions: Iraq, UN to hold dialogue on early lifting of sanctions

Published November 20th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahaf stated last week, after talking with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Doha on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit, that Iraq and the UN had agreed, “to engage in a comprehensive dialogue without any preconditions. Both sides will start to put their remarks, their suggestions, proposals together and then they will meet after preparing their proposals.”  


Sahaf described the agreement as “a good start” to Iraq’s efforts “to achieve a comprehensive and final solution to lift the embargo.” Earlier, in an interview with the daily Asharq Al-Awsat, Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Nizar Hamdun said his country was not interested in “partial measures or a partial solution,” but wanted a complete lifting of sanctions — adding, though, that “they have begun to erode, a fact on which everyone agrees. And America and its allies can do nothing to prevent it.” 


Despite the announcement of the start of a comprehensive dialogue, however, neither the UN nor Iraq seemed optimistic that it would lead to the early lifting of sanctions. Annan said that he and Sahaf “didn’t agree on any mechanism as such. I have to review what we have discussed and we’ll determine how we are going to proceed. They have issues, I have UN Security Council resolutions, but we are going to find ways of discussion.”  


Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Tariq 'Aziz also sounded a note of caution about the likely outcome of the proposed dialogue with the UN. “Would such a dialogue succeed?” he wondered aloud during a press conference in Baghdad. “Iraq has legitimate demands, including an end to the aerial bombardments, lifting the embargo and commitment to international law. Would the Secretary-General be ready to set up a party to look into these demands?” 


Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov flew to Baghdad on November 13, the first foreign minister from Moscow to visit Iraq since 1994. Speaking in Baghdad, he said Russia thought it was “time to take concrete steps to end the plight of the Iraqi people and lift the economic sanctions on Iraq.” He also called for the scrapping of the Western-declared no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq, saying, “Air bombing by US and British air forces is a breach of international law and UN resolutions.”  


Iraq has recently stopped selling crude oil to Russia’s Lukoil because of the company’s failure to develop the Qurna oilfield in the south of the country. In a contract signed in 1997, a Lukoil-led consortium agreed to develop the field, even under sanctions. Lukoil was omitted from the list of companies awarded Iraqi oil contracts under Phase 8 of the UN oil-for-food program. In the 7th Phase, Lukoil bought 2 million barrels of Kirkuk crude and 2.5 million barrels of Basrah Light.  


As for the reopening of the oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria, the US has said that it will not oppose as long as the UN controls revenue from it. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Richard Roth told Reuters on November 15, that the US had “been in intense discussions with the government in Damascus. We are not opposed to oil going through the pipeline as long as it meets the export regime controls. As long as the money is put into the UN system, we don’t have a problem.” 


November also saw talks held in Doha between the foreign ministers of Iraq and Iran, Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahaf and Kamal Kharazi, on normalizing relations between the two countries. The two ministers said they followed up on discussions, which they started during Kharazi’s visit to Baghdad in October. Sahaf said after the talks in Doha that a number of differences between the two sides remained, but they would “be dealt with in the normalization process.” — (MEES)

© 2000 Mena Report (

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