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Iraq: Ambassador Urges Phaseout Of UN Weapons Mission

  • Robert McMahon

UN inspectors in Iraq (file photo) Iraq's UN ambassador has called for the termination of the UN weapons inspectorate for Iraq and other UN mechanisms tied to the rule of Saddam Hussein. Samir al-Sumaydi'i says Iraq, as it moves to solidify its sovereignty, should have the choice of observing the same weapons conventions as other countries. The decision is up to the UN Security Council, where some members support continuing the UN inspection role in Iraq. A spokesman for the inspection mission indicates there is still unfinished business in Iraq.

United Nations, 2 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Almost two years after the fall of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi official says it is unfair to continue to single out the country for special scrutiny on weapons issues.

Iraq's UN ambassador, Samir al-Sumaydi'i, told reporters yesterday that there is no longer any need for the UN weapons mission -- known as UNMOVIC. He says Iraq does not pose a threat; nor does it possess any weapons of mass destruction.

"Whatever applies to other independent sovereign states who are responsible, who want to play their part in the international community, we are prepared to be subject to the same regime. But we do not want to continue to be singled out for victimization because the time of Saddam Hussein has gone and this is a new Iraq," al-Sumaydi'i said.

UNMOVIC, with a current staff of 51, is financed through past Iraqi oil revenues. Al-Sumaydi'i said it was time to stop using Iraqi money to, in his words, "fund a bureaucracy."

He also suggested ending UN mechanisms still dealing with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, since the two countries have improved relations. A UN envoy continues to investigate Kuwaitis missing since Iraq's 1990 invasion. Separately, a UN commission in Geneva awards compensation to Kuwaiti victims of the Iraqi invasion.

The UN Security Council plans to revisit the mandate for UNMOVIC but has given no timeline. Some council members remain interested in a continuing role for UNMOVIC experts in Iraq, and a debate over its future is expected.

UNMOVIC inspectors left Iraq ahead of the U.S.-led invasion to oust Hussein nearly two years ago. The group is responsible for monitoring Iraq's chemical, biological, and ballistic missile programs.

The U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group concluded last autumn that Iraq did not possess chemical or biological weapons at the time of the U.S.-led invasion and was not trying to reconstitute its nuclear program. But it said the regime worked hard to retain the capability to resume production of weapons of mass destruction at some time in the future.

On nuclear issues, Iraq has signed a nonproliferation treaty safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and comes under that agency's mandate.

UNMOVIC has tagged thousands of pieces of equipment in Iraq, including such dual-use items as fermenters, which could be used to make anthrax. UNMOVIC spokesman Ewen Buchanan tells RFE/RL the organization has continued remote monitoring of Iraqi sites through such means as commercial satellite imagery.

He says the agency still has proliferation concerns about Iraq.

"Clearly there are people who still exist in Iraq who were involved in the previous weapons programs. Some of them may have left the country -- we don't know. Clearly there is equipment which has potential for weapons programs still in Iraq, and that's why we try to do this kind of remote monitoring and clearly, they have done it in the past, so that means you can't take that knowledge away," Buchanan said.

UNMOVIC reported in September 2004 that more than 40 engines from banned missiles had ended up in scrapyards outside of Iraq.

U.S. officials said they were helping Iraq to improve border controls and other methods to stem the flow of such equipment. They also said Iraq had put controls in place prohibiting the export of items such as nuclear, chemical, biological, and weapons-related materials or weapons components and technologies.
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