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Iraq: Saddam Hussein Challenges Security Council Authority

Prague, 6 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Iraq Service interviewed U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Martin Indyk yesterday on U.S. policy in the Iraq-UN crisis.

Following are highlights of Indyk's remarks on key policy questions.

1. On the policies of the United States and the UN Security Council in the Iraq crisis:

"What Saddam Hussein has done now by further shutting down the operations of UNSCOM is to violate the Security Council resolutions ... We feel it is up to the Security Council to deal with this problem. It is their authority which is being challenged, and if it fails to do so then the whole authority of the Security Council will be undermined. I think that other members of the Council, including Russia and France, understand very well how serious this is for them, because the Council is the place where their influence is maximized. If the Council's authority is undermined then their own influence on international events is undermined as well. So that is why I think you see now that (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein's actions are regarded by all of the Security Council as totally unacceptable and as a violation.... I would emphasize that this is a crisis situation, that we have tried now for some three months to work with the other members of the Council to persuade Iraq to come back into compliance. This effort culminated in a letter last Friday from the (Security Council) President to the Secretary General which offered Iraq a way out of this crisis in terms of the comprehensive review which would take place as soon as Iraq resumed cooperation. That provided Iraq with an important opening, but within 12 hours it was summarily rejected by Saddam Hussein. So, I think it should be understood that all of the Council members feel, and I include the Russians and the French in this, that the Council has been very tolerant, very patient and very reasonable in terms of trying to persuade the Iraqis to come back into compliance. This clearly has not worked, unfortunately it seems to have encouraged Saddam Hussein to believe that if he steps up the pressure on the Council he will get more concessions. That is simply not going to happen."

2. On US policy toward the Iraqi people in the crisis:

"I think it is very important that the Iraqi people understand that the United States is not their enemy and that the United States does not seek to punish them in any way, that we have from the very beginning of the post-Kuwait situation sought to find ways to meet the needs of the Iraqi people, first of all by allowing exemptions for the importation of food and medicine and -- when it became clear that Saddam Hussein would not import the food and medicine to feed and take care of the Iraqi people -- by providing for the oil-for-food arrangement and the expansion of the oil-for-food arrangement.... I hope it is understood that our concern is for the (Iraqi people) and that we are seeking ways to alleviate their suffering because we know that Saddam Hussein is not interested in their plight, that he would rather play on their plight to achieve his own purposes ... We would much prefer to deal with a different regime in Iraq and we would look forward to the day when that would be possible. Precisely because the Iraqi people are not our enemy, we would like to see Iraq come back into the family of nations."

3. On the Iraq Liberation Act:

"The President did sign this act into law and we will be going ahead with the identification of opposition groups that would be eligible to receive support under this arrangement. In addition, to the Liberation Act itself, there is funding provided by the Congress for support for opposition groups, for political activities. We would like to see the opposition united, we are working towards that goal. I think we made an important step forward with the agreement reached between the Kurdish groups, the KDP and the PUK. We would like to see them working together with all groups representing the spectrum of Iraqi opposition but also representing the spectrum of Iraq itself -- whether that be the Sunnis or Shias. We will be using the funds appropriated by the (U.S.) Congress to find ways to make the opposition more effective because we think it is very important that an alternative regime be promoted that is more democratic, more pluralistic, more representative of the mosaic of Iraqis and the needs and aspirations of the Iraqi people."