- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

NEW YORK The Bush administration is making a new push to ease the impact of sanctions on Iraq, even as it searches for ways to topple President Saddam Hussein.
U.S. diplomats have been working with the Russians and other Security Council members to refine the 11-year-old U.N. sanctions regime, which has had a devastating impact on the Iraqi people.
The discussions come as the Bush administration explores ways to remove Saddam from office, forcibly if necessary. Among the steps under consideration:
Funding a radio transmitter to spread anti-Saddam propaganda, to be located in Iraq's Kurdish-dominated north or even Iran.
Hosting a gathering this spring in the United States of some 200 civilian and military Iraqi dissidents under the umbrella of the Iraqi National Congress.
Gathering evidence for a future war crimes trial of Saddam.
At the United Nations, U.S. diplomatic efforts have focused on streamlining the oil-for-food program, enumerating what is off-limits, rather than what items are allowed.
Russia, Iraq's closest defender on the council, has resisted the revised oil-for-food program for years, saying the sanctions should be lifted as soon as weapons inspectors are back at work.
But they agreed to revise the plan in December, and diplomats say officials in Moscow and Washington are negotiating which items should remain off-limits after April 1.
"We are now close to agreement on the new Goods Review List that will guide this approach, as the council decided unanimously late last year," John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a speech Wednesday night at Georgetown University.
"This will be of great benefit to the Iraqi people, without permitting Baghdad to import goods or technologies which have a military use or which can contribute to its weapons of mass destruction programs," he said.
He said the scheme "would work better if Baghdad cooperated with it instead of cynically obstructing its benefits for the ordinary Iraqi."
But in the United States, impatient policy-makers and observers are wondering why Washington continues to fiddle with a sanctions regime that hasn't brought down Saddam or restored U.N. weapons inspections.
"The U.N. is zigging where they should be zagging," said Kenneth Allard, an Iraq scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said the United States should be focusing on weapons of mass destruction, not sanctions relief.
"Tinkering with sanctions is a waste of time, because since 1990 … they haven't worked. The world debate has moved well beyond the sanctions. The Iraqis have to put up or shut up" about the weapons inspections.
An Iraqi delegation, led by Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, will meet Thursday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. They are expected to discuss the inspectors, among other issues.
"They will come, I hope, in a constructive and open mood to discuss frankly with me how we get the inspectors back and how they cooperate with the U.N.," Mr. Annan told reporters in Berlin yesterday.
Since the oil-for-food program was accepted by Baghdad in 1996, Iraq has been allowed to sell increasing amounts of oil to the world market. The proceeds are banked in an escrow account, and spent on items approved by the United Nations.
Under the new sanctions plan, Iraq would be allowed to import whatever it wants, except for items on a prohibited list.


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