Washington, 9 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The head of the United Nations says any future attack on Iraq would require consultation with the U.N. Security Council.
Appearing on U.S. television (ABC-TV), U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday that Washington does not have an automatic go-ahead to strike Iraq should Baghdad renege on its agreement to open up all suspected weapons sites to international inspectors.
The United States has said that under existing Security Council resolutions, it has the right to take military action if the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein backs away from a recently negotiated accord on inspections.
Iraq agreed last month to grant full and unconditional access to U.N. weapons inspectors. The agreement, signed in Baghdad by Annan and Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, averted a threatened U.S.-led military strike against Iraq.
Annan said Russia, France and China -- permanent members of the Security Council, along with U.S. and Britain -- are hesitant to grant Washington an automatic right to launch an attack.
"Therefore, if the U.S. had to strike, I think some sort of consultations with the other members would be required," he said.
The U.N. chief said that if Iraq were to break the pact, the mood of the council members "would be quite different," indicating military approval would be likely.
Annan also said he will study a Kremlin request to appoint a Russian deputy co-chairman to the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) on weapons inspections. UNSCOM is headed by an Australian diplomat and is co-chaired by an American.
The U.S. has indicated it would veto adding a Russian co-chairman to UNSCOM.
Annan said he will refer the matter to the Security Council for discussion, where "the U.S. can exercise its veto, if it so desires."
In Iraq, U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter was reported to be getting full cooperation from Baghdad. Ritter was barred from work in Iraq two months ago after Baghdad branded him a spy. He has denied the allegation. Ritter inspected various sites suspected of containing weapons of mass destruction.
U.N. spokesman Alan Dacey said that the new U.N. commissioner for the inspection of so-called "presidential sites," Jayantha Dhanapala, is expected in Baghdad on Wednesday to hold talks with Iraqi officials.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf welcomed Jordanian King Hussein's efforts to open a dialogue between Baghdad and Washington.
"The dialogue is important because it is based on a mutual interest and preserves peace and security and it's the right way to deal with the crisis and not by brandishing the threat of use of force," Sahaf said during a weekend visit to Amman.
King Hussein recently suggested that Iraq and the United States enter into a dialogue.
The White House said last week that, while it appreciates the king's efforts, no high-level discussions are currently under way between the two countries.