- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, April 17 (UPI) — The U.N. Security Council president for April, Mexico's Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, said Thursday the panel is "in intense dialogue" to establish conditions for discussing Iraq sanctions resolutions.

He said that while "there are still sharp contrasts on points of view in the council, there will have to be "an extraordinary effort to bring the council together. All members are working now with this objective in mind." As yet, there have been no proposed draft resolutions on Iraq.

In Iraq, U.N. humanitarian efforts gradually were making progress in the face of tremendous odds.

On sanctions, Security Council diplomats said the panel was working on the topic unusually informally, perhaps because of the unusual thorniness of the issue.

Instead of going behind the usual closed-door Consultation Room in the council's chambers in U.N. headquarters, council members met "informally" in a nearby skyscraper, at the French mission.

"It is just an informal, informal discussion on everything from sanctions to weapons of mass destruction," said one council diplomat. No decision was expected from the late Thursday afternoon session. No informal consultations or even formal consultations were scheduled until Tuesday because of the Easter weekend.

On Tuesday, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and the head of the so-called oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, were to attend informal closed-door consultations on Iraq.

The United States was seeking an early lifting of Security Council sanctions imposed on Iraq — not the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Those nations opposed to the U.S.-led coalition's military intervention in the Arab state in the first place, notably France and Russia, feared legitimizing the attack through a council measure suspending or lifting sanctions. Washington wants to sell oil for Iraq's recovery.

The relevant council resolutions going back to 1990 following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which led to the first Gulf War, call for weapons inspectors to certify the disarmament of Iraq before suspending or lifting sanctions.

Like coalition members Britain and the United States, France and Russia, along with China, are all veto-bearing permanent members of the council.

In the council in the weeks preceding the mid-March beginning of hostilities, the coalition was joined by Spain, an elected panel member, while the French-led opposition had the additional support of China, Germany and Syria. The remainder of the 15 members claimed to be undecided on a coalition-sponsored draft resolution authorizing the attack. Seeing it faced defeat — it would have needed nine affirmative votes and no veto — Washington decided not to call for a vote and attacked Baghdad.

"This dialogue is very intense and is taking place right now and it will be held over the weekend," said the ambassador of Mexico, which holds the council's rotating presidency for April.

Council members might raise the sanctions issues then and "we will be able to respond then," Zinser said.

A spokeswoman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was "concerned about reports of murder, looting and the forced expulsion of Arabs in northern Iraq."

Iraqi government attempts to "Arabize" the Kurdish Kirkuk area dated back to discovery of major oil reserves in Kirkuk in the 1920s, according to the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch.

U.N. spokeswoman Hua Jiang, referring to media reports and eyewitness accounts from Human Rights Watch indicating widespread intimidation and displacement in and around the city of Kirkuk, said: "The secretary-general appeals to all concerned to respect fundamental human rights principles, including the right to live free from intimidation and forced expulsion." Annan was concerned "that unless the security vacuum that now exists is quickly addressed, there is a very real prospect of population displacement in Iraq," Jiang said.

Annan apparently was suggesting the possibility of retaliation for Baghdad's decades of anti-Kurd policy.

In Iraq, U.N. local staff — international staff for the most part are still barred for security reasons — painted a "horrible" picture, yet with highlights of hope and humanitarian heroism, said U.N. agency officials in Amman, Jordan.

The World Food Program said a convoy of 50 trucks loaded with 1,400 tons of urgently needed wheat flour crossed the Jordanian-Iraqi border early in the morning.

The convoy established WFP's second and, potentially, most important humanitarian corridor into Iraq, said agency spokesman Khaled Mansour. Food aid has been flowing into northern Iraq through Turkey for nearly two weeks.

The WFP has received no reports of extreme food shortages, but it expects the majority of Iraq's 27.1 million population to exhaust their reserves by early May.

The local head of the U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF, in Baghdad, Hatim George, called the situation "horrible," UNICEF spokesman Geoffrey Keele said.

All civic services had essentially ceased to exist, he said. There was no garbage collection, with refuse adding to the risks of disease. Stacks of bio-waste were piling up outside hospitals, including bloody bandages and limbs from amputations, the spokesman said.

In the Saddam Pediatric Hospital there had been so many deaths that staff had to bury the dead in the hospital's garden since they had no way of getting all the bodies to a graveyard.

UNICEF was looking into ways to contract trucks and drivers to collect refuse in the worst hit areas, Keele said. The greatest need of hospitals, besides power and clean water, was liquid oxygen without which operations could not be conducted, he said. Hospitals were also in dire need of ventilators for intensive care units, intravenous fluids, injectable antibiotics, and anesthetics.

The children's agency would be sending a supply of anesthetics from Jordan in a refrigerated truck within days, Keele said. In some children's hospitals, 70 percent of patients suffer from diarrhea.

The World Health Organization reported that security was still a major problem in Baghdad following the looting of the main warehouse of the ministry of health, which housed many of the millions of dollars worth of medicines and supplies needed across the country.

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