Both Iraq and U.N. Gain Concessions
By R. Jeffrey Smith
In the written agreement signed by Iraq's deputy prime minister and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the United Nations won an Iraqi reaffirmation that it accepts the critical U.N. Security Council resolutions establishing the U.N. inspectorate and giving it extraordinary powers to snoop anywhere, anytime.
Annan also won a new Iraqi pledge to give the inspectors "immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access" -- a pledge that Iraq has repeatedly made before, then broken.
But Iraq, in reiterating the pledge, abandoned a hard-line position that certain sites should be off-limits to all inspections, or subject to inspection only by experts of certain nationalities, or subject to inspection only for a period of another month or two before being placed off-limits.
Iraq, for its part, won a key concession from the United Nations when Annan agreed to establish a new organization to oversee inspections of eight "presidential" facilities that Baghdad considers its most sensitive. Iraq has long sought to usurp some of the authority of the existing U.N. Special Commission on Iraq -- which has generally had an aggressive and intrusive inspection policy -- by setting up such a parallel organization.
The new organization, dubbed the Special Group, is to be staffed by diplomats and weapons experts appointed by Annan and headed by a commissioner that Annan will also appoint. This was a departure, according to several sources, from the general understanding reached among members of the U.N. Security Council before Annan's departure for Baghdad, that the Special Group and its staff would instead report to and be appointed by the special commission now responsible for inspections in Iraq.
Still to be decided are how the new group will conduct its inspections of these eight sites, and who will work out these procedures. Also, the general location of the eight presidential sites was spelled out in an annex to the agreement, which refers to an Iraqi letter spelling out additional details. Several U.S. and diplomatic officials said they had not seen that letter yesterday, raising questions about how large the sites are.
Also to be worked out is how the new Special Group can conduct its inspections of these eight sites without providing advance notice to the Iraqis. As one diplomat said, "The policy has always been no-notice. I wonder how this will be possible" if the inspection teams must now be composed of diplomats as well as weapons experts.
In addition, the agreement states that "all other areas, facilities, equipment, records and means of transportation" associated with the inspectors' activities in Iraq will be subject to procedures already agreed upon between the Special Commission and the Iraqi government. But many of those procedures have been disputed for months, and some U.N. officials have said they are no longer workable.
The agreement does not mention past violations by Iraq of the inspection requirements and does not call on Iraq to work harder. At the same time, it commits Annan to tell other Security Council members about Iraq's desire to be freed of economic sanctions as quickly as possible, and calls on the inspectors to respect Iraq's "national security, sovereignty, and dignity."
"It's basically a good agreement," said one foreign diplomat who has closely followed the dispute. "There are many good things in it. There are also some odd things."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company