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UN Nuclear Inspector Teams Find Iraq in Full Compliance

By John M. Goshko
The Washington Post
UNITED NATIONS

U.N. weapons experts said Monday that their most recent inspections of sites in Iraq, including formerly off-limits presidential buildings, have revealed no signs that Iraq possesses prohibited nuclear weapons or materiel.

These findings by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seemed likely to rekindle debate about whether the Security Council should conclude that Iraq has complied with its orders, issued after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, to get rid of its nuclear warfare program. Elimination of Iraq's programs to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is a precondition for ending the crippling economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Commission, meanwhile, issued a report charging that President Saddam Hussein's government continues to engage in widespread rights violations, including summary executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities such as the Kurds.

The report by Max van der Stoel, a former foreign minister of the Netherlands, calls on the United Nations to make every effort to force Iraqi authorities to behave in accordance with international standards of law and respect for individual rights.

But, the report added, the Iraqi government refuses to cooperate with the commission and rejects its findings.

The most "alarming problem," the report says, involves the "food situation affecting children, who suffer from widespread malnutrition and even starvation."

It rejects Baghdad's contention that this is solely the fault of the sanctions and says that much of the blame rests with the Iraqi government's attempts to control food distribution for internal political purposes and its five-year delay in accepting a U.N. humanitarian program that permits limited oil sales to generate funds for food and medicine.

The IAEA's report on weapons sites comes at a time when the United Nations and Iraq have recently stepped back from a military confrontation over weapons searches and are working uneasily toward a new understanding about future searches.

The council created the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) to pursue questions about Iraq's missiles and chemical and biological programs, while the IAEA has had responsibility for nuclear matters. The confrontation over the United Nations' right to inspect the presidential palaces was resolved, at least temporarily, when Secretary General Kofi A. Annan SM '72 went to Baghdad and negotiated Saddam Hussein an agreement with that allows UNSCOM and the IAEA to survey the palaces accompanied by diplomats.