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Iraq: Security Council Meets Today About Arms Inspections

New York/Baghdad, 21 December 1998 (RFE/RL) - The United Nations Security Council is due to meet today to discuss the future of arms inspections in Iraq following last week's four-day bombing campaign by the United States and Britain. Slovenia's ambassador to the Security Council, Danilo Turk, said hopes for consensus on the matter are likely to be dashed by confusion, at least in the next few days.

Permanent, veto-holding Security Council members Russia and France have spoken about the need for a new way to conduct arms inspections in Iraq following the bombing raids. But the U.S. and Britain -- also permanent members -- have said they want the current U.N. inspection process to continue, without interference by Iraqi authorities.

The Iraqi government in Baghdad has said it will not cooperate any longer with the U.N. inspectors, and that they are not welcome back.

Iraqi officials said the Wednesday through Saturday bombing campaign had left thousands of Iraqis killed or wounded and had caused enormous damage, including to non-military infrastructure. In a televised address yesterday, President Saddam Hussein said Iraq had emerged victorious from the onslaught.

Washington and London yesterday announced a halt to the air strikes against Iraq, saying that their forces had significantly damaged Saddam's weapons programs, as well as command structures, and military and security installations.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the bombing had made the world a safer place and had set back Saddam's military capabilities by years. Blair and U.S. leaders say the two countries will be ready to strike again in the future if Baghdad tries to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction.

Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov yesterday expressed satisfaction that the U.S. and Britain have ended their air strikes. But at the same time, he said he is worried that the bombing could resume.

Primakov was speaking in New Delhi at the start of a visit to India. Primakov said that Russia will continue to stress that force is "unacceptable" without direct UN Security Council consent.

Indian officials say Iraq is likely to feature in Primakov's talks with Indian leaders.

Also yesterday, China called for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over weapons inspections in Iraq. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said Paris was working to forge a new cooperation between weapons inspectors and Iraq.