- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2000

Back to Iraq?

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is suggesting Swedish Ambassador Rolf Ekeus as a compromise candidate to break a deadlock in the U.N. Security Council over appointing a new weapons inspector for Iraq.
There is no guarantee that Mr. Ekeus would take the position, which he held from 1991 to 1997 before being appointed ambassador to the United States.
He has never expressed an interest in returning to Iraq to resume the difficult task of tracking Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, said one diplomat close to the ambassador.
Mr. Ekeus in August turns 65, Sweden's mandatory retirement age, and will have to leave the diplomatic corps. He has already been offered other positions in the private sector, including president of Sipri, a prominent Swedish disarmament organization.
Mr. Annan and Mr. Ekeus, described as "old friends," met in New York last week, the diplomat said.
"His name has been put forward," said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified.
The ambassador yesterday would not comment on the matter and is not expected to discuss his conversations with Mr. Annan unless he receives a formal request from the Security Council to take over the position.
Mr. Annan told the Reuters news agency that consultations with Security Council members were "more complicated than I thought." He hopes to decide by tomorrow on a nominee for chairman of the new U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission that the council established in a Dec. 17 resolution.
The five permanent members of the Security Council the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia raised objections to all 20 names put forward by Mr. Annan, Reuters reported.
Russia opposes any candidate from a NATO country. China prefers a Third World nominee. France supports Celso Amorim, Brazil's former U.N. ambassador, but the United States and Britain oppose him.
Iraq has refused to allow U.N. arms inspectors in the country since December 1998, shortly before the United States and Britain launched air strikes to try to force Iraq to comply with weapons inspections.

A laughing matter

The presidential election in Uzbekistan may be no laughing matter, but State Department spokesman James P. Rubin couldn't help himself yesterday as he described how the only opponent to President Islam Karimov actually voted for the authoritarian incumbent.
Noting that Mr. Karimov won with 92 percent of the vote, Mr. Rubin said, "The U.S. government believes that this election was neither free nor fair and offered Uzbekistan's voters no true choice."
"The sole candidate permitted to oppose President Karimov was a public supporter of Karimov's policies and leadership and was quoted during the campaign as stating he himself intended to vote for Karimov," Mr. Rubin said, as he broke into laughter.
Mr. Karimov's opponent, Abdulkhafiz Dzhalalov, won about 4 percent of the vote. The government declared the rest of the ballots invalid.

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