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Security Council Warns Iraqis to Halt Cease-Fire Violations

By John M. Goshko
The Washington Post

United Nations

The U.N. Security Council warned Iraq Thursday to immediately stop violating the Persian Gulf War cease-fire agreement, and U.N. officials said the first test of Baghdad's intentions could come next week when a U.N. team goes to Iraq, possibly with instructions to destroy disputed missiles.

Even if Iraq cooperates and allows the missiles to be destroyed, the officials said, it still would be about two months before they could tell if President Saddam Hussein's government is complying with all the cease-fire conditions it accepted last April after its defeat in the war.

The officials said Iraq's actions in the next two months should make clear whether it no longer is seeking to evade the agreement's requirements that it give up all its large-scale weapons, such as ballistic missiles, and the remnants of its nuclear arms program, including a scientific research center at Al-Atheer, 40 miles from Baghdad.

In the meantime, diplomatic sources here said, the Security Council probably will have to mark time before deciding whether to increase the pressure on Iraq through new economic sanctions or renewed military action. In an echo of the threats that have been used to overcome Iraq's past attempts to defy U.N. inspectors probing its weapons activities, there has been speculation here that the United States might make an air strike against Al-Atheer to put Baghdad on notice that further evasions of the cease-fire will not be tolerated.

The council Thursday ended a special two-day meeting on the issue by rejecting Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz's arguments that Baghdad has met the cease-fire conditions in Security Council Resolution 687. Instead the council issued a statement endorsed by all 15 members that concluded:

"The government of Iraq has not yet complied fully and unconditionally with those obligations, must do so and must immediately take the appropriate actions in this regard. The council hopes that the goodwill expressed by the deputy prime minister of Iraq will be matched by deeds."

Rolf Ekeus, head of the U.N. special commission charged with eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, said he is sending a technical team to Iraq this weekend and is considering giving it instructions to get rid of missiles and related equipment that Baghdad wants to preserve. Ekeus added that if the team has orders to destroy the missiles and encounters interference from Saddam's government, he will have to report to the council that Iraq still is failing to observe the cease-fire agreement.

Both Ekeus and Hans Blix, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, refused to set deadlines for Iraqi compliance with the provisions of Resolution 687, but said that the next two months should provide a fair test of whether Iraq is cooperating.

Blix, whose organization would be responsible for disposing of the Al-Atheer complex, said the IAEA plans "very soon" to announce its proposals for what to do with the installation. He refused to elaborate, but gave a strong signal that the IAEA will recommend destruction when he was asked about Iraqi contentions that the complex has dual-use capabilities that could be used for peaceful purposes and thus should be preserved.

"Does any part of it have dual-use capabilities?" he replied. "I suppose that the cafeteria does."

Iraq has used that argument to thwart attempts to destroy other arms-related equipment, even though Resolution 687 says Ekeus's commission has sole authority to decide what should be eliminated. Ekeus said Thursday that his commission will continue to insist that destruction of Iraq's missile arsenal must include not only its long-range ballistic missiles but launchers, production and repair facilities and cruise-type non-ballistic missiles.

"There can be absolutely no exceptions," he said. "That would be totally unacceptable."

In Washington, CIA Director Robert M. Gates also urged caution, saying, "We believe Baghdad has been able to preserve significant elements of each of the special weapons programs."

Gates, speaking at a conference sponsored by Richard M. Nixon's presidential library, said, "And of course Iraq's scientists and engineers retain their know-how. So once Iraq is free to begin rebuilding its special weapons capabilities, it will not start from scratch."

The question now, U.N. diplomats said, is whether Baghdad will bow to the Security Council's demands, or, as British Ambassador Richard Hannay said, "It is deeds, not words that will determine what happens next."

Some sources here expressed mild encouragement at Aziz's comments to the council Thursday. Wednesday, he took an uncompromising line, apparently trying to convince the Third World members that Iraq is being victimized by a U.S.-led plot to force Saddam out of power.

However, that tactic failed to dent the council's united insistence that Iraq live up fully to all the obligations in Resolution 687. Thursday he shifted to a more flexible line, talking about consulting closely with Ekeus and Blix to reach a satisfactory resolution of weapons issues.

On Wednesday, he had avoided addressing charges that Iraq has committed massive human rights violations against its Kurdish and Shiite Muslim minorities. Thursday he characterized charges that Iraqi forces have made artillery bombardments and other attacks on civilian targets as "an accusation, not a question. I reject the accusation."

He denied that Baghdad is blockading Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, saying that Kurdish rebel control over these regions has prevented the central government from delivering food and medical supplies or paying the salaries of civil servants. He also said that any attacks on Shiites or other refugees in the south are the work of "outlaws," fostered in some cases by agitation from Iraq's hostile neighbor, Iran.

Aziz urged the council not to renew a resolution permitting Iraq to sell $1.6 billion in oil exports to meet its basic needs, because Baghdad rejects the monitoring provisions as an infringement of its sovereignty. Instead he suggested that Iraq be permitted to sell oil to Security Council members-including former customers such as the United States, France and Britain-in exchange for agreement to buy food and medicine from them.

However, his arguments failed to impress U.S. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, who said: "I am left with the final, unfortunate conclusion that ... Iraq has every willingness to discuss but not to comply. I think that is a miscalculation, and I hope that miscalculation will be reconsidered."

Gates, in Washington, described Saddam's hold as slipping but said it was questionable whether an internal opposition could be mounted.

Saddam's control of his country's "territory and people is eroding, mainly because he has not been able to extract his country from the grip of U.N. sanctions," despite his "cynical manipulation of food and medical supplies," Gates said.

"Even so," he added, "fear and intimidation continue to prevent his opponents from acting individually, while disunity and the pervasive security system impede the formation of a collective resistance.

"Consequently, it is difficult to say when public frustration or political and military defections will lead to his overthrow."