Iraq to suspend all co-operation with UN weapons inspectors

 

Iraq has decided to suspend all co-operation with UN weapons inspectors, the official news agency INA reported yesterday. "Iraq has decided to suspend totally its co-operation with the (UN) Special Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency," the news agency said.

The decision was announced after a joint meeting chaired by the President of the Revolution Command Council, Mr Saddam Hussein, and the leadership of the ruling Baath Party.

It followed a recommendation from the Iraqi parliament earlier in the day to break off co-operation after the collapse of talks on Monday with the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) chairman, Mr Richard Butler.

Protests against the UN Special Commission on disarming Iraq erupted in several areas of Baghdad after the parliament's resolution was announced.

"The representatives of the Iraqi people reaffirm their previous recommendations and believe it necessary to apply them now and end co-operation with UNSCOM," said the resolution, which was read to journalists.

Parliament had demanded that the UN Security Council "immediately apply" paragraph 22 of resolution 687, which sets out a lifting of the eight-year embargo once UNSCOM certifies that Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Butler left Baghdad on Tuesday after the breakdown of talks, and he was to brief the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, yesterday afternoon.

The Security Council President, Mr Danilo Turk of Slovenia, said it would react to the latest moves by Iraq only after a briefing today by Mr Butler.

Iraq's Foreign Minister, Mr Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf, told the parliament that UNSCOM was "creating crises" to prolong the embargo.

He said that since the commission's creation in 1991 it had inspected 9,340 sites "without finding anything," INA reported.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Butler described Iraq's position as "not supportable" and said Baghdad's claims it no longer had weapons of mass destruction was far from true, especially in the biological area.

Mr Butler, who left Baghdad after refusing demands from the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Tariq Aziz, to declare Iraq "clean", said he was puzzled by Baghdad's attitude because of the progress made in a number of areas.

In Washington the White House called Iraq's decision to suspend co-operation with UN weapons inspectors "political rhetoric" that Washington and it allies have seen before.

Mr Butler was due to brief the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, on the situation late yesterday in New York.