- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

Off to Mongolia
The Security Council is preoccupied by the stalled Iraq resolution that will return U.N. weapons inspectors to Baghdad and that has sharply divided the council along familiar fault lines.
If the inspectors are, as chief Hans Blix says, to return by the end of the month, the five permanent members of the council are likely to have to draft a resolution by the end of the week, and approve it before the end of the following week.
There is no shortage of advice available to key council members, but one person who won't be doing so is Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Mr. Annan, who has carefully deferred to the council on difficult matters while maintaining close contact with the governments involved, including Baghdad, appears to have been sent packing for the next two weeks.
He left Saturday for a two-week visit to China and Central Asia, a trip he tried to postpone before it was announced. But after Asian diplomats complained and the five permanent council members told him he could go, he did.
"Obviously, he discussed [it] with the P5 and they told him to go," said a U.N. official, using insider code for the permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. "If he's needed, he'll come back."
Mr. Annan arrived in Beijing yesterday for a four-day visit, to be followed by stops in Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
Although China holds a veto in the council, it is not considered a key player on the Iraq issue. U.N. officials stressed that Mr. Annan tries to visit the P5 governments annually, and this visit does not hinge on current events.
Mr. Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, defended the secretary-general's absence during such a tense period, saying that he is "scrupulously" not influencing the negotiations.
"Talking is not necessarily action, and not talking is not necessarily ducking," Mr. Eckhard said Friday in response to questions. "The secretary-general is not disengaged. His head is down, but his hand is in."
Mr. Annan infuriated the Clinton administration in 1998 when he returned from Baghdad with a new agreement to block surprise inspections of "presidential sites." Although that memorandum of understanding was later adopted by the Security Council, the United States and Britain now say the council and Iraq must explicitly reject it.
The question of when to authorize the inspectors to return with or without approving the U.S. use of military force at the same time is one that continues to bedevil council members.
An open debate on the subject has been scheduled for Wednesday, after the Non-Aligned Movement group of 130 developing nations demanded an open hearing. The group was moved, in large part, by the sidelining of the 10 elected council members.
"We believe that the proposed elements of such a resolution include issues that are of importance to the entire membership of the United Nations," said South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, who requested the meeting on behalf of the Non-Aligned members.
The Iraqi government last week issued vague pledges of cooperation to the two U.N. officials who are coordinating weapons inspections, but offered no explicit assurances in response to questions about access to sites, Iraqi officials and other concerns.
U.S. officials say this is setting the stage for another showdown, but other council members and even U.N. officials were reluctant to criticize or even comment on the two-page letter.

Tiniest mission ends
The Security Council agreed last week to wind up the tiny U.N. peacekeeping mission in Prevlaka, a move that will send 27 military observers home and reduce to 14 the number of active missions.
The U.N. Mission of Observers in Prevlaka was created in 1996 to police the peace on the Croatian peninsula south of Dubrovnik, which occupies a strategic location near the deep-water port of Montenegro.
It is the United Nations' smallest peacekeeping mission and draws its funds from an account shared with the U.N. Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A true microcosm of the world body, its 27 observers come from 22 nations.
The mission found few significant disturbances and little tension in recent years.
It will wind down by Dec. 15 or sooner if Croatia and Yugoslavia prefers.
Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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