UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.
IF Iraqi officials came to the United Nations hoping to find a chink in UN Security Council solidarity, they had to be disappointed.
In an open Council session Nov. 23, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz insisted that Baghdad has fulfilled most UN cease-fire terms and deserves relief from the Council's "iniquitous" and "inhumane" economic embargo.
Yet Council members and top UN officials argued just as vehemently that Baghdad still has a long way to go before the sanctions that followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait can be lifted.
At the beginning of the two-day session, Council President Andre Erdos of Hungary read a long list of Iraq's unfulfilled obligations. It ranged from lack of full disclosure of data about weapons programs and suppliers to Iraq's failure to repatriate missing Kuwaitis and stop human rights abuses.
France's Herve Ladsous said the sum of the demands was quite simple: Iraq must live in peace with its own people and its neighbors.
The latter point is one of rising concern to the Council. Most speakers noted that Iraq not only has shown few signs of willingness to accept new boundary lines with Kuwait but has recently reasserted its territorial claim to Kuwait by every means from radio broadcasts to school books.
"This strikes at the very heart of the cease-fire resolutions," said Sir David Hannay, Britain's ambassador to the UN.
Both Iraq and the Council agree that Iraqi civilians are suffering unnecessarily in the aftermath of the Gulf war. They disagree on who bears responsibility.
Mr. Aziz said the Council's sanctions committee had barred the import of such essential items as heaters for maternity hospitals, water pumps, pencils, and bread ovens. He said that no matter how much Iraq does to try to comply with UN cease-fire terms, its people face an "unjust sentence" of starvation from the embargo.
Council members say Iraq could end such suffering by complying with the UN terms.
"The responsibility for maintenance of the sanctions regime is fundamentally in the hands of Iraq," said Venezuelan Ambassador Diego Arrias.
"Sanctions are never a goal in themselves," said Austrian Ambassador Peter Hohenfellner. "They are not punishment. They are introduced to make certain [UN] members comply."
The United States ambassador to the UN, Edward Perkins, noted that the embargo exempts food and medicine. "If food is not reaching the needy in Iraq," he said, "it is because the Iraqi regime has diverted food imports to the military and security forces which allow Saddam [Hussein] to maintain his brutal dictatorship."
Aziz accused the UN of ceding to the "whims" of President Bush, saying the US has been "the leader of this ruthless campaign both inside and outside the Security Council."
Several speakers responded that the Council has been united from the start. Many voiced concern with Iraq's harassment of UN personnel and its persistent efforts to renegotiate UN cease-fire terms. Sir David said that Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Said al-Sahaf's recent call for a "review" of resolutions covering long-term monitoring and verification of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction sounds like an attempt to "escape" UN demands.
"Iraq does not have the right to interpret Security Council resolutions and choose which provisions it will implement and which ones it will not," said Yoshio Hatano, Japan's ambassador to the UN. "Iraq must comply fully with all resolutions."