Annan Says Iraq Will Never Be Fully Disarmed
By John M. Goshko
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said yesterday that he believes Iraq will never be fully disarmed and that U.N. weapons teams may have to avoid confrontational inspections in order to regain Baghdad's cooperation in determining the scope of Iraq's current arsenal.
"I personally believe, as I think a lot of the Security Council members believe with 100 percent certainty, that Iraq being fully disarmed is never going to be possible," Annan said at a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Post.
"At the end of the day, the Security Council must decide whether Iraq is disarmed to the extent that it is not a threat to its neighbors, that it has no weapons of mass destruction and that it has no capacity to make weapons of mass destruction," he added. "At the end of the day, that will be a political judgment."
First, Annan said, Iraq must resume its cooperation with inspectors of the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with searching out and destroying Iraq's banned weapons. If Baghdad does so, the council has said it will conduct a comprehensive review of whether President Saddam Hussein's regime has complied sufficiently with council orders to warrant the relaxation of crippling economic sanctions. The Iraqi government is studying the offer, and Annan said it is possible that the United Nations may receive a response by Monday.
Annan diverged from the U.S. position that Iraq must accede unconditionally to Security Council orders and UNSCOM's inspection schedule, saying that getting Iraq to cooperate realistically might require UNSCOM to take a more flexible and conciliatory approach in the way it operates within Iraq. The problem, Annan said, "is that we have a very intrusive mandate [for UNSCOM] in a situation where the government is very nationalistic."
Asked whether a shift to less intrusive inspections amounted to permitting Iraq to change the conditions that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf War, he replied: "You have to look at the reality of the situation on the ground. . . . It is not fair to simply say this is what was agreed to eight years ago."
He noted that the United States, which had forced Iraq to back down in previous confrontations with the United Nations by threatening the use of force, now is unwilling to resort to that option because it has no support from other countries.
"What do you do when the will [to use force] is not there, when the council is divided, when you don't have public support?" Annan asked. "Our objective is to disarm Iraq. If they won't cooperate, we have a problem. In the worst-case scenario, they might throw UNSCOM out altogether. That would pose a very grave challenge to the international community. . . . And the United Nations would be stuck with the mess."
Annan said it is his understanding that the 15-nation council is agreed on "the broad outlines" of what the comprehensive review should cover. However, diplomatic sources say that the council's five permanent members, each with the right to veto any decision, still are sharply divided over what the main focus of the review should be.
According to the sources, the United States, supported by Britain, wants the review to assess Iraq's compliance with all the terms it accepted in 1991, including accounting for missing prisoners taken after the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait and its promises of restitution for stolen or damaged property. Russia, France and China, all sympathetic to Iraq, have agreed that these factors should be considered but reportedly want the major weight of the review to be on the current state of Iraqi disarmament.
Turning to other matters, Annan expressed undisguised bitterness at the continuing failure of the United States to pay almost $1 billion owed to the United Nations in back dues and peacekeeping assessments. Legislation authorizing the payment has been paralyzed by the insistence of congressional Republicans that President Clinton accept an amendment restricting U.S. aid to organizations lobbying foreign governments to support abortion. Clinton has said he would veto any bill containing that proviso.
"We feel deceived," Annan said, referring to his efforts to address congressional complaints by making a number of internal U.N. reforms. "I think we delivered on our part of the bargain. What we have done is enough for anyone to see we are serious about reform. But we haven't received the money. . . . We see this as a moral as well as a contractual obligation."
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