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Iraq scoffs at U.S. `smart sanctions' effort & says no U.N.

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February 28, 2001 


UNITED NATIONS-(AP) - Iraq's foreign minister criticized American proposals Tuesday to make U.N. sanctions less harmful to ordinary Iraqis, saying the embargo should be lifted altogether because Baghdad has complied with U.N. demands by scrapping its weapons of mass destruction.

Amid waning support for the 10-year-old sanctions, U.S. officials have suggested altering them to focus on punishing Iraq's leaders and denying them military goods while allowing more civilian goods in. Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said such plans only draw attention away from Iraq's contention that it deserves to have the sanctions removed.

"We met the requirements and sanctions are still there," al-Sahhaf said Tuesday. "On the contrary, we are hearing stupid statements from (Secretary of State Powell) talking about clever sanctions, as if he confessed that all what had been going on since 1990 is stupid."

He spoke to reporters Tuesday as he headed into the second day of talks with Secretary-General Kofi Annan on breaking a stalemate that has kept U.N. weapons inspectors out of Iraq since 1998. The talks were expected to conclude Tuesday, but al-Sahhaf said he expected future rounds.

Al-Sahharf started off the session with a warning, saying Iraq will not allow weapons inspectors back in: "There will be no return for any inspectors in Iraq - even if sanctions are totally lifted."

However, al-Sahhaf suggested that Iraq could allow less intrusive U.N. monitoring of its weapons facilities if sanctions are lifted and if Israel and other countries in the Middle East are subject to similar scrutiny.

U.N. monitoring in Iraq should fulfill a U.N. resolution that says Iraq's disarmament would help make the entire Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, he said.

"That means in our view that this should be implemented on Israel and all other countries if they want monitoring in Iraq," he said.

On Tuesday, Annan seemed receptive to the Iraqi position, saying that "when it comes to regional security arrangements, it should not be an issue only for the Iraqis."

"I have no doubt that we need to work on a regional basis to ensure longterm security for everyone in the region," Annan said.

U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in December 1998 just before the United States and Britain launched airstrikes to punish Baghdad for what they said was its failure to cooperate with the arms searches.

Under U.N. resolutions, sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait cannot be lifted until the Security Council is convinced Iraq has rid itself of its weapons of mass destruction.

Al-Sahhaf said his delegation had given Annan detailed proof that Iraq had no biological, chemical or nuclear weapons and none of the missiles to deliver them.

But al-Sahhaf also said he had put forward proposals "of finding a way out, and Iraq's demands in regard to any balanced solution" - an indication that Baghdad may want to negotiate a deal.

With criticism mounting against sanctions that have impoverished Iraq's 23 million people, the Bush administration is reviewing its Iraq policy.

After a tour of Arab capitals, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that sanctions could be modified to let more consumer goods into Iraq.

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