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Iraq: World Leaders Weigh Consequences Of Air Strikes

Prague, 21 December 1998 (RFE/RL) - World leaders are discussing how to proceed following four days of U.S. and British air strikes against Iraq. The strikes ended over the weekend, with Washington and London saying that some 100 targets had been hit. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said today that the air strikes had set back "by some years" Iraq's capacity to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

Cook said the attacks had "broken up" Iraq's capacity to produce missiles and to deliver chemical and biological weapons by pilotless planes.

However, the head of Russia's military intelligence is quoted today as saying that the attacks against Iraq proved less effective than has been claimed by the allies. Interfax news agency quoted military intelligence chief Valentin Korabelnikov estimating that every fifth missile fired on Iraq had failed to hit its target.

The air strikes began after the head of UN weapons inspectors, Richard Butler, reported last week that Baghdad had continued to obstruct inspections. Butler withdrew members of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) from Iraq before the bombings. Baghdad has said they will not be allowed to resume their work.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said today that the international community now must seek to restructure UNSCOM. Speaking on Radio Luxembourg, Vedrine said that UNSCOM should set up a continuous monitoring program to ensure that Baghdad doesn't again become a threat to its neighbors.

The UN Security Council is to meet today to discuss the future of arms inspections in Iraq.

In Baghdad, an unnamed UN official was quoted as saying that UN humanitarian staff will return tomorrow to resume relief work interrupted by the air strikes.

In London, Cook said that he will begin contacting foreign ministries around the world, including those in Arab nations, to explain British participation in the strikes. He said he hopes to build a broad consensus for isolating Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government.

In Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev issued an appeal to his visiting counterparts from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to work out a coordinated military policy. He said this was necessary because of what he called "the unpredictability of U.S. policies," which he said had been demonstrated by the U.S.-led air strikes on Iraq.

In New Delhi, visiting Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov today called for a new strategic relationship among Russia, China and India. He said that the development of what he called a "strategic triangle" would help ensure regional stability.