Iraq sees hope in UN decision

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The Independent Online
IRAQ HAS welcomed "as positive and encouraging" the decision by the United Nations Security Council not to blame it in the dispute over the handing over of documents to weapons inspectors.

An official said: "This shows the radical position which Britain wanted to adopt with the backing of the United States did not find listening ears at the Security Council." Earlier the Russians blocked a statement drafted by Britain that would have made clear Iraq had not complied with its promise to co-operate with the UN Special Committee (Unscom) on eliminating weapons. The Iraqi pledge prevented air strikes on 14 November, when US bombers were already in the air.

The official added: "America and Britain have always been united in taking radical stands against Iraq. This is no surprise to us, because they hold enmity against Iraq, but these two countries are not the only ones at the Council. There are other states which have weight and influence, like Russia, China and France."

At the UN in New York the Security Council president, Peter Burleigh, admitted it was split. "We have not reached any definitive conclusions this evening. So these discussions will continue but this is not a very encouraging start."

Iraq has sent three letters to the Security Council saying 10 out of 12 documents demanded by Richard Butler, the head of Unscom, are irrelevant, unavailable or concern Iraqi national security.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's UN representative, said he wanted discussion about whether the documents really existed before agreeing to a statement such as that drafted by Britain. If the council believes Iraq is co- operating, it has promised a full review of its compliance with UN resolutions. This might lead to an easing of sanctions first imposed in 1990.

Iraq isolated itself on 31 October by ending co-operation with Unscom and thereby alienating Russia, France and China on the Security Council. It is now trying to reverse its diplomatic losses by portraying the US and Britain as seeking confrontation.