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U.N. Readies for Iraqi Confrontation

By Stanley Meisler
Los Angeles Times


The U.N. published a litany of accusations against Iraq Monday as Tarik Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, was scheduled to arrive in New York to prepare for a confrontation with the Security Council over his country's failure to comply with all the demands of the resolutions that ended the gulf war.

The accusations came in a report from Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. His report informed the Security Council that his inspectors still believe Iraq is trying to elude the U.N.'s permanent ban on Iraq's making or possessing weapons of mass destruction.

The report made clear that Aziz will have a difficult time persuading the Security Council at an extraordinary open meeting Wednesday that Iraq has complied with the United Nations as much as possible, and, therefore, deserved some lifting of the sanctions against it.

Diego Arria, the Venezuelan ambassador who is the council president this month, predicted a "very provocative, concrete and effective" debate. Besides following their practice of reading set speeches one after another, council ambassadors were expected to fire questions at Aziz and to challenge his replies.

Many diplomats are puzzled over Iraq's motivation in calling for the meeting. They suspect that the session will only confirm once again that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein does not see his own position in the world realistically. Diplomats expect members to castigate Hussein's government at the meeting and to threaten further punitive action if Iraq persists in its defiance.

But there is a good deal of uncertainty over the council's likely course. While American officials have mentioned a U.N. seizure of Iraqi financial assets abroad, the British government has talked about bombing Iraqi factories that could be used to make the prohibited weapons.

Arria would not speculate. He said council members are waiting for Aziz to make his case before they decide what to do. "It would not be healthy nor helpful," he said, "to anticipate" that Aziz would repeat Iraq's refusal to comply with the U.N. resolutions.

Asked if the council might agree to lift some of the sanctions against Iraq, Arria said that "the best way to lift the sanctions is for Iraq to fulfill the resolutions." He said the resolutions provide that full compliance would mean the end of sanctions.

This prompted journalists to remind Arria that President Bush and British Prime Minister John Major have insisted that they will never allow the removal of sanctions so long as Hussein is in power in Baghdad. "I haven't seen that in any U.N. resolution," Arria replied.

The council session will mark the first occasion since the war ended a little more than a year ago that Iraq has had a well-publicized, major forum to court world public opinion. Judging by official documents that Iraq has filed with the United Nations, Aziz will maintain that Iraq has complied with a substantial number of the demands of the resolution and will make the case that the United Nations has trod on the sovereignty of Iraq through unreasonable inspections and has hurt the economy and health of its people through sanctions.