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UN: Security Council Reviews Sanctions Against Iraq

The UN Security Council has approved a program of activities this month that is designed to move forward with the new inspection mission for Iraq. The council will also review its overall approach to sanctions and look specifically at how to improve the sanctions regime imposed against Angolan rebels. UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

United Nations, 6 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The UN Security Council this month plans to move ahead with the organization of the new inspection mission for Iraq and to devote special attention to the issue of sanctions.

The council is scheduled to review sanctions, both in specific cases and as an overall policy, at the request of Canada, which assumes the presidency of the council this month.

Top officials of Canada's UN mission told reporters at a briefing Wednesday that Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy will be present on April 17 to launch a report reviewing the last 10 years of Security Council sanctions. The report is to make recommendations for what Canadian officials call "more humane and effective sanctions."

It is not clear whether there will be any moves to ease sanctions against Iraq, which has been an issue of contention on the Security Council. The council agenda for this month calls for the body to review an organizational plan from the director of the UN inspection mission for Iraq, Hans Blix.

The Canadian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Blix is due to present the plan next week and it could be approved by the end of the week.

The officials said there will be no immediate discussion of an inspection trip to Iraq. One official, noting the sensitivity of the discussions over Iraq, said the council needs to move ahead one phase at a time.

A Security Council resolution last December set up the new inspection mission and offered an easing of sanctions if Iraq cooperated and allowed UN arms inspectors into the country again. Iraqi officials have said they reject the resolution. They have not allowed arms inspectors into the country since December 1998.

Separately, the Canadian presidency has scheduled an open meeting on the issue of Angolan sanctions for April 18. An experts panel chaired by Canadian Ambassador Robert Fowler last month issued a report in the council detailing violations of UN sanctions against Angola's UNITA rebels. It offered 39 recommendations for making the sanctions system more effective.

The Canadian ambassador has said he will offer a resolution on action the council should take on improving the sanctions. The contents of the resolution are not known. One Canadian official told reporters Wednesday he does not expect a "quiet, easy meeting" on April 18.

The release of the report last month was met by strong criticism from a number of African countries which were linked to sanctions violations. The report also listed Bulgaria as the main source of illicit arms for the Angolan rebels and said the government had not taken effective steps to halt this arms trade.

Bulgarian officials have categorically denied the reports findings concerning their role in the sanctions violations. They say the report either ignored or distorted the information they provided to the panel. Officials on the panel have said that Bulgaria's prospects for joining the European Union and NATO are threatened by the findings of the report.