Iraq Accepts Sovereignty of KuwaitBy Julia Preston
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 11, 1994; Page A01 UNITED NATIONS, NOV. 10 -- Iraq today recognized the sovereignty of Kuwait, setting the stage for a debate in the Security Council over whether the action is sufficient to hasten a lifting of the sanctions imposed on Baghdad in 1990 after it tried to seize its oil-rich neighbor.
In Baghdad, President Saddam Hussein closed one central chapter in the Persian Gulf conflict by signing a statement saying Iraq "recognizes the sovereignty of the State of Kuwait, its territorial integrity and political independence," and accepts the border between the two nations drawn last year by a U.N. commission. The statement was approved by the Revolutionary Command Council, Iraq's ruling political body, and endorsed by the parliament in a special session today.
All 15 council nations have insisted on Iraq's recognition of Kuwait as one condition for lifting the four-year-old U.N. ban on commercial exports that prevented Iraq from selling its oil abroad and devastated its economy.
The United States reacted guardedly, calling Iraq's action today "an important achievement for the U.N. Security Council," but urging the international community not to accept "partial steps." The United States will continue to insist that Iraq prove its "peaceful intentions" by showing a long-term pattern of compliance with the full range of U.N. resolutions before the sanctions can be lifted, said James P. Rubin, the U.S. spokesman at the United Nations.
A routine review of the sanctions by the Security Council is scheduled for Monday, where a sharp dispute is likely over how to respond to Baghdad's concession, diplomats said. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz will come to New York to notify the council formally.
Iraq's action has brought to a head long-simmering differences among permanent, veto-bearing council members. Russia and France have argued the council must reward Iraq if it meets the terms of resolutions that directly govern the oil embargo by destroying its most lethal weapons and accepting Kuwait.
Saddam was persuaded to acknowledge Kuwait by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, who met the Iraqi president in Baghdad today. Russia pledged to work in the Security Council to lift the oil embargo if Iraq would renounce its claims to Kuwait and cooperate fully with a U.N. commission overseeing the dismantling of its weapons of mass destruction.
"This will constitute a major step in the right direction, which in my mind should be registered by the Security Council," Kozyrev said in Baghdad, according to the Reuter news agency. Kozyrev received a standing ovation after addressing the parliament.
Although the United States and Russia have clashed openly over Iraq in recent weeks, a State Department spokeswoman avoided criticizing Kozyrev's intervention in Baghdad. "The Russians have been working with the Iraqis in a way which is consistent with the positions taken by" the council, Christine Shelly said.
Russia and France are playing down the importance of threatening Iraqi troop maneuvers last month that Washington interpreted as a potential new drive by Saddam against Kuwait. President Clinton dispatched 29,000 U.S. troops to the gulf region to face down Saddam and announced this week that 7,800 ground troops still there will be home before Christmas.
Under Saddam, Baghdad had long claimed Kuwait as its 19th province. In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait in a surprise invasion that ended with the Iraqi rout by a U.S.-led allied force in Operation Desert Storm the following February.
France and Russia have called for a six-month test period to see if Iraq continues to cooperate, after which the embargo would be canceled. Russia recently signed a $10 billion economic cooperation agreement with Iraq that will take effect after the sanctions are lifted, and France has been negotiating new oil contracts.
A senior Russian diplomat in Washington said the accord worked out by Kozyrev includes a provision for Red Cross workers to help Iraq search for missing Kuwaitis in Iraq, thus beginning to meet a key U.N. demand related to Iraq's respect for human rights.
But the United States has pursued a policy that in practice, if not in words, would leave the oil embargo in place until Saddam leaves power. Diplomats said that approach seems even less likely to bend now that more conservative Republicans will be taking control of the Congress. U.S. officials have said they think it would be difficult for Iraq to comply with all U.N. resolutions while Saddam is in control.
Rolf Ekeus, the chairman of the U.N. weapons commission, reported here today that he is continuing to test a long-term monitoring system to make sure Iraq does not rebuild any major weapons. Iraq, while reluctant, is largely cooperating with the commission's work, Ekeus said.
He said the commission is running out of money and needs $25 million immediately or it will have to start curtailing its operations in December. Kuwait has not responded to requests for funds, a commission member said. But the commission will probably be funded from the sale of $8 million in Iraqi oil sitting in two tankers that were stopped as they tried to sneak out of the Persian Gulf, diplomats said. The United States has promised to match the funds by drawing on $70 million in Iraqi assets it is holding.
Staff writer R. Jeffrey Smith in Washington contributed to this article.