The Security Council unanimously endorsed U.N. chief Kofi Annan’s deal to open Iraq’s presidential palaces to U.N. arms inspectors and warned Monday of “severest consequences” if Baghdad breaks the accord.
Annan, appearing before the 15-member council, said it was now up to the Iraqis to comply “with what they have signed on paper.”
“Whether the threat to international peace and security has been averted for all time is now in the hands of the Iraqi leadership,” the U.N. secretary-general said.
President Clinton hailed the council’s action.
“Tonight’s unanimous vote of the United Nations Security Council sends the clearest possible message: Iraq must make good on its commitment to give the international weapons inspectors immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any suspect site, any place, any time,” he said in a statement.
But the unanimous vote came only after several council members insisted on guarantees that it would not give automatic approval for a military attack if Iraq breaks the accord.
China’s U.N. ambassador, Qin Huasun, noted that Beijing had insisted “that there must not be any automatic authorization of the use of force against Iraq in this current resolution.”
Qin said that although China supported the resolution, “our misgivings about the possible abuse of this resolution have not been removed. … The passing of this resolution in no way means that the Security Council automatically authorizes any state to use force against Iraq.”
The resolution endorsed the agreement that Annan signed in Baghdad last week with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to allow U.N. inspectors, accompanied by diplomats, to visit eight presidential palaces which Baghdad had placed off limits.
Annan’s agreement also reaffirmed the right of U.N. inspectors to enter all sites in Iraq to determine if the Iraqis have complied with U.N. orders, issued at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, to destroy all long-range missiles and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
That is the main condition for the council to lift crippling economic sanctions imposed in 1990 after President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, touching off the Gulf conflict.
Since last week, the British and Japanese, who sponsored the resolution, have circulated several versions in an attempt to satisfy all council members. The original draft warned Iraq of “severest consequences” if it violated the accord.
That was softened Friday to “very serious consequences,” but in an apparent attempt to placate Washington, the “severest consequences” phrase was reinserted on Monday.
But the difficulties encountered in reaching a consensus cast doubt on the Clinton administration’s claims that if Iraq violated the deal there would be strong international support for military action.
During lengthy meetings throughout the day, envoys from several nations made clear they opposed any resolution that would give Washington a blank check for an attack if Iraq doesn’t honor the accord.