Rifts open at UN over Baghdad deal

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The Independent Online
JUST one day after Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary- General, was accorded a hero's welcome in New York for brokering a deal with Iraq that averted military action in the Gulf, diplomatic rifts had surfaced yesterday on how that agreement should be handled by the Security Council.

Britain and the United States are determined that the Council should swiftly adopt a new resolution giving legal blessing to the so-called memorandum of understanding negotiated by Mr Annan on his visit to Baghdad. Russia and China, at least, are less convinced that any resolution is necessary.

Even if some text does emerge from the Council in the new few days, as still seems likely, the debate on what it should contain is likely to be highly fractious, diplomats warned yesterday. "We do not expect this to be plain sailing," one said.

France is expected to resist efforts by Britain and the US to instil the text with the strongest possible warning to President Saddam Hussein that any violation of the memorandum's provisions would result in almost instantaneous retaliation. While military strikes would not be explicit, they would be implied.

"We want the message to Saddam to be this: if you step out of line on this one, don't expect a manuscripted letter of complaint from us, sent on an ocean liner taking three weeks to get to you," one diplomat in the US-UK camp explained.

The memorandum, which Mr Annan presented to the Security Council on his return from Baghdad on Tuesday, recommits Iraq to allowing UN inspectors to continue their task of rooting out weapons of mass destruction in the country.

At the same time, however, it establishes new procedures for the inspection of eight sites designated as presidential palaces. Mr Annan agreed that for those sites, the usual Unscom inspectors will be accompanied by diplomats from foreign embassies in Baghdad.