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Western Press Review: Iraqi Agreement Bodes Future Conflicts

By Jeremy Bransten/Dora Slaba/Esther Pan

Prague, 25 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq remains at the forefront of Western press commentary today, with most columnists still mulling over the implications of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's new agreement.

NEW YORK TIMES: There are reasons to believe that the agreement won't work

David Kay, the former chief nuclear weapons inspector in Iraq for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), writes in today's New York Times that Annan's agreement is probably doomed to fail from the start. In his words: "There are reasons to believe that the agreement won't work. Not only because Saddam Hussein has a history of ignoring such pacts, but also because the agreement is itself fundamentally flawed."

Kay says the new agreement will dangerously blur the chain of command on inspections. According to the deal, the inspection of eight presidential palaces is to be supervised by a new team headed by an Annan appointee. He or she will still report to UNSCOM head Richard Butler, but the compromise, according to Kay, could allow Saddam to play one team of inspectors off the other: "The 'good' team, led by the Annan appointee, could well find nothing wrong, because after a freeze of more than four months on inspections, Mr. Hussein's government will have been able to move any evidence from the presidential palaces. Mr. Butler's team, on the other hand, may still demand access to more than 50 other sensitive sites. Iraq could try to frustrate these efforts by painting the team as 'troublemakers' and by demanding that they operate under the same rules as Mr. Annan's team."

WASHINGTON POST: Saddam emerges playing David to the American Goliath

The Washington Post, in an editorial published in today's International Herald Tribune, also notes that the agreement, even if it bears fruit, sets a dangerous precedent: "Saddam Hussein entered this crisis as an international villain isolated for invading Kuwait and making dirty bombs. He emerges as the much courted intended target of an American air assault that never came off but that still leaves him playing David to the American Goliath. He need merely bide his time to test again the constancy of American deployments and American allies."

LE FIGARO: Only France had the courage to negotiate

But France's Le Figaro, continues to sing the praises of French diplomacy in helping resolve the crisis: "Only France had the courage to negotiate, in that it gave full backing to the UN Secretary General's endeavors. It demonstrated that the best US partners are those that hold their ground ... France has more credibility worldwide than it believes. For the majority - existing or future - members of the European Union foreign policy is nothing more than a policy with a regional horizon; it constitutes better or worse relationships with its neighbors."

BADISCHE NEUESTE NACHRICHTEN: It was mighty U.S. military power which smoothed the path to a diplomatic solution

Germany's Badische Neuste Nachrichten (based in Karlsruhe), however, pokes some holes in the boasting from Paris: "The European countries...should not sing their ode to joy that loudly. True Paris and Moscow insisted on a diplomatic solution ... On the other hand the Europeans in the most recent crisis have distanced themselves as far is at all possible from their ideal vision of a joint foreign and security policy. The French are above all pursuing their economic interests in Iraq. The British gave preference to standing shoulder to shoulder with the Americans. And Germany apparently found itself in the middle. Finally, it was mighty U.S. military power in the Gulf which smoothed the path to a diplomatic solution."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic had an opportunity to display their allegiances

Daniel Michaels, writing in the Wall Street Journal Europe, explores another angle, noting that the crisis provided a strategic chance for NATO hopefuls to prove their loyalty to Washington: "Although armed conflict in Iraq now appears less likely, Washington's effort to build a military coalition against Saddam Hussein has handed Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic an opportunity to display their allegiances just weeks before the U.S. Senate votes on admitting them to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization."

GUARDIAN: Contracts with Russian companies are now more than pipe-dreams

Finally, Tom Whitehouse, in Britain's Guardian, writes that Russia's campaigning for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict also promises to pay "dividends." He notes:" With an end to UN sanctions on Iraq now being considered, the estimated $10 billion worth of contracts that Russian companies have signed to develop President Saddam's dilapidated oil fields are more than pipe-dreams." Whitehouse also notes that: "Further Russian involvement in Iran's nuclear power sector will be on the agenda at talks in Moscow today between Iran's Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi and Russia's Yevgeny Primakov."