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Annan issues warning to Iraq

November 7, 1997
Web posted at: 1:34 a.m. EST (0634 GMT)
In this story:

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNN) -- In a sternly-worded statement, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Iraq late Thursday night that if it did not cooperate with U.N. demands, he would end his personal intervention in an ongoing arms inspection crisis.

Annan's comments come on a day when three teams of weapons inspectors were once again turned away from weapons sites and Iraq admitted it had moved sensitive equipment.

In a statement from Chile, where Annan was visiting, he urged the Iraqi government to respond positively to the three U.N. envoys in Baghdad for talks on the ongoing dispute. The envoys are expected to speak to the press before leaving Iraq Friday.

Annan's statement was seen by many as a last-minute effort to spur on the talks, whose progress sources have described as disappointing.

cameras

"Should the Iraqi government not respond positively to the message carried by this team, the secretary-general would have no choice but to terminate his intervention, which was initiated with the sending of the team," spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt told reporters.

The issue would then revert to the 15-member Security Council, which is waiting to hear from the delegation.

The leader of the U.N. delegation, Former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi, has carried a letter from Annan to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. A written reply is expected Friday.

Security Council tones down rhetoric

In contrast, the U.N. Security Council toned down its rhetoric Thursday, politely urging Iraq to comply. The council said it should "comprehensively implement relevant resolutions."

In a carefully worded statement, the council said it "hopes that any recurrence" of resolution violations "will be avoided" because they were "not in conformity" with U.N. orders.

Butler

British Ambassador Sir John Weston was more outspoken, calling alleged Iraqi tampering with U.N. monitoring equipment "completely unacceptable."

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler said Wednesday that Iraq had taken advantage of a halt in weapons inspections to disable surveillance cameras and hide key equipment from sites being monitored by U.N. weapons inspectors. Butler said the Iraqis could use some of the equipment that had been under surveillance to "produce seed stocks of biological warfare agent."

"They've turned the lights off and it's pretty hard to take pictures when you've got no lights," Butler told CNN Thursday. "In other places, they've simply obstructed the cameras, put bags over the lenses. It looks a little bit like, 'the cat's away, the video mice will play.'"

Iraq admits moving equipment

Aziz

Iraq acknowledged Thursday that it had moved equipment, saying that it feared the hardware would be damaged or destroyed in an air strike. But it denied tampering with surveillance equipment, and said that one camera was destroyed in a short-range missile test.

In a letter to the U.N., Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said that Iraq was preparing for what it called U.S.-led military aggression and wanted the machinery out of harm's way. Speaking to reporters, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz added, "We expect them to attack us with warplanes and missiles. It's only natural to safeguard our equipment."

The foreign minister described the movement of equipment as temporary and said it would not be used in any prohibited way. "We are going to put the equipment back to its previous positions ... and we will invite U.N. monitoring teams to see it and be sure about it," Al-Sahaf said.

Inspectors turned away again

U.N. inspection teams were turned away again Thursday, the fourth straight day they have been blocked. Three teams -- of missile, chemical weapons, and biological warfare specialists -- were told at three sites that American team members would not be admitted. Iraq has issued an order expelling American inspectors, but has delayed the expulsions during the current talks.

The inspectors turned back after the team chiefs "informed the Iraqi authorities that what they are doing is considered a clear violation of the cease-fire agreements," a U.N. spokesman said.

Under the terms of the 1991 cease-fire that ended the Persian Gulf War, Iraq is prohibited from having several classes of weapons, including chemical, biological and nuclear armaments. It is also required to submit to U.N. inspections to verify that these weapons have been destroyed and are not being developed.

Compliance with the inspections is a requirement for the lifting of economic sanctions that have all but stopped Iraqi oil sales for nearly seven years.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

 
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