UN Debates Extent and Timing of Iraqi Penalties
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.
UNITED Nations postwar demands on Iraq are proceeding along three tracks: *-Members of the UN Security Council are discussing the taxation of Iraqi oil revenue to pay for war damages, once exports are allowed to resume.
*-UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar is proceeding with plans to dismantle Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
*-Separate discussions are continuing between Iraq and the UN, and between Iraqi and Kurdish leaders, on guaranteeing protection to Kurdish refugees returning to safe zones in northern Iraq. Ten unarmed UN guards were deployed in Dohuk Saturday. If discussions are successful, up to 500 UN guards, equipped with light side arms, will operate throughout Iraq to protect relief workers and UN supplies.
Iraq has asked for a five-year grace period to rebuild its economy before paying war reparations, but there is no support in the Security Council for this.
"Is Iraq's situation any worse than that of an Asian or Palestinian worker who lost his home and life savings after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait?" asks a United States diplomat.
While Kuwait claims about $45 billion in damages, Iran has been pressing for months for an evaluation of damages during its eight-year war with Iraq. Estimates for that war range from $350 billion to $1 trillion. Iranian diplomats say the UN secretary-general has promised to send a team of experts next week.
John Boulton, the US State Department official in charge of UN affairs, argues for charging as much as 50 percent of Iraqi oil revenues. "Even if Iraq returns to its prewar oil-production levels, with net revenues averaging about $15 billion a year," he says, "at 50 percent they would have paid off $45 billion in six years, but at 10 percent it would take 30 years - and that's too long."
British diplomats have asked that Iraqi compensation equal the percentage of prewar income it allocated to military expenditures - about 28 percent.
Mr. Perez de Cuellar is supposed to set a ceiling on the rate and is reportedly consulting with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to arrive at a figure. But Iraq was so secretive about its prewar expenditures that it refused any dealings with these financial institutions, so there are no prior records.
Security Council members differ on where the compensation commission should be located. Nonaligned members want it based in New York, where they have more capable diplomatic missions, rather than in Geneva, as proposed. British diplomats are lobbying for the reparations fund itself to be based in London. High banking and legal fees will accrue wherever these institutions are located, and Britain argues that London's financial institutions have lengthy experience dealing with Iraq.
Iraq will not be allowed to resume petroleum exports until arrangements are made for compensation - and until its most dangerous weaponry has been turned over for internationally supervised destruction.
A team of experts is inspecting Al-Tuwaitha, a site 20 miles north of Baghdad, where two nuclear reactors (built with Soviet and French help) were the targets of coalition bombing. A team of chemical and biological experts is to travel to Iraq by the end of the month.
New technology may have to be developed to dispose of Iraq's chemical weapons, Swedish diplomat Rolf Ekeus, the head of the UN's commission to disarm Iraq, said recently. Iraq has declared it has 500 to 600 tons of such weapons, but Mr. Ekeus estimates stocks are "probably in the ballpark of 1,000 tons."
Yet another factor hinders Iraq's return to normalcy: Britain will not agree to any easing of sanctions until Iraq frees Douglas Brand, a British businessman seized in September as a "human shield," and sentenced to life imprisonment after a summary trial last week on charges of espionage.
The Security Council has subjected Iraq to 13 mandatory resolutions - including freeing all foreign hostages taken during the Gulf crisis. As long as Mr. Brand is detained, Britain says, Iraq cannot be considered in compliance with UN cease-fire requirements.