- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

Iraq's shopping list
U.S. officials have been holding intense meetings with other members of the U.N. Security Council to figure out how to close important gaps in the list of goods Iraq is not allowed to buy through official U.N. channels.
Alarmed that Baghdad will obtain powerful antidotes to nerve gas, communications-jamming devices and other potential tools of war, the Americans have sought to reopen the delicately negotiated Goods Review List and expedite the additions.
The GRL, in diplo-speak, is the last vestige of the U.N. sanctions regime imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Items on the list are not forbidden technically, but are subject to a detailed review that effectively makes them impossible to obtain.
The system, paid with Iraq's oil revenues, was changed a year ago to speed the delivery of food and other humanitarian goods to the Iraqi people.
At least a dozen U.S. officials from the Pentagon and State Department were in New York last week for meetings with key council members, and diplomats say serious bilateral negotiations will begin soon in members' capitals.
On Wednesday, John Bolton, undersecretary of state for disarmament affairs, briefed council members on the U.S. aims and urged them to make the changes by the end of the year.
"These were really good meetings," said a senior U.S. official who asked not to be identified. "The main progress is that we got an agreement to get this done well before Christmas. We saw a real sense that a review was needed. Based on that, and based upon the preliminarily positive [reception] to the materials we presented, we have a good prospect of getting that review completed."
But other council members all of whom agree that the list needs work are not so sure that procedural matters and the list will be finished by the council's self-imposed Jan. 4 deadline.
They noted that the existing GRL a 415-page catalog of goods that could be used or converted to build weapons of mass destruction took more than a year to negotiate.
Nearly every council member agrees that the list is imperfect and has ideas about what should be added or in Russia's and China's view deleted from it. But some members wonder if the issue can be completed now.
Weapons inspections and the threat of war have escalated international tensions, felt as acutely in the Security Council chambers as anywhere else.
"We have no problem with adding dual-use" goods, said an envoy from a key council nation, noting that a 1990 conventional-arms embargo already prohibits Iraq from buying many of the items that worry Washington. "And there are [medical] uses for atropine, but not in that high a dose. That can only be for the battlefield."
The problem, the diplomat said, is that the Americans want the list to stay open for eternal tinkering, while his country and others think they should get the GRL right and review it occasionally.
The Americans say the deadline is short: The holidays complicate the work schedule, a war with Iraq appears to be looming, and one-third of the Security Council turns over in January.
Diplomats said they expect a better grip on the issues, or even a breakthrough, by the end of this week.

Turner unit extended
Ted Turner and the board of his U.N. Foundation (UNF) decided last week to extend their mandate by five years, for a 15-year run. The group's decision to distribute the Turner donation more slowly has nothing to do with the media mogul's financial downshift, said foundation President Tim Wirth, but rather the reliance of the United Nations on the organization.
The UNF initially was meant to give $1 billion to experimental or emergency programs dealing with the environment, women's and children's health and refugees, among other core interests. But the staff quickly branched out to mend U.S.-U.N. relations and raise outside contributions, in addition to making grants.
"We are now an institution with three missions," Mr. Wirth said in an interview last week. "So our relationship with the U.N. is much, much more complicated. The U.N. is trying to figure out how to adapt. We're a hybrid. They want us to continue, so we will."
Besides, he added, the organization is raising nearly $500 million a year for its causes through fund raising and strategic partnerships, allowing it to more generously fund U.N. programs while influencing U.S. policy and public opinion through its $10 million-a-year Better World Fund.
Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at UNear@aol.com.

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