Tags: Cohen: | Kuwait | Rejects | Russian | Overtures | Iraq

Cohen: Kuwait Rejects Russian Overtures on Iraq

Sunday, 19 November 2000 12:00 AM

Cohen also firmly rejected the idea, saying the only way for Iraq to get out from under sanctions would be for it to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for full and unfettered weapons inspections in Iraq.

The official Russian news agency ITAR-TASS quoted Ivanov as saying the Russian proposal is meant to transform the region to the zone of peace and stability and to restore good-neighborly relations between Iraq and its neighbors.

Cohen reported Russia had said this would be a confidence-building measure, but he admitted his information about it was second-hand.

Ivanov was just a few hours ahead of Cohen as they both moved from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia. Ivanov was in Iraq last week for meetings with President Saddam Hussein, whose army invaded Kuwait 10 years ago and sparked the Persian Gulf war.

"I think the confidence building measure is for Saddam Hussein to stop flying in the no-fly zones, to stop firing at our pilots, and to demonstrate that he is prepared to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions," Cohen said. "That would be a very strong confidence building measure, which the Kuwaiti people and government and those in the region could then react to positively.

"Until that happens we have a situation where Saddam is thumbing his note at the international community, saying out with the inspectors, off with the sanctions and let me go back to being Saddam Hussein building my war machine again. And that is something that is unacceptable."

The details of the Russian proposal remain murky; one senior U.S. official characterized it simply as an effort to make trouble.

Cohen said part of that proposal would be Kuwait's abandonment of its support for the no-fly zone missions carried out by U.S. and British war planes in southern Iraq as Operation Southern Watch. A similar operation is in effect in the north.

Suspending the no-fly zone operation from Kuwait would place some stress upon the security of Kuwait itself, Cohen said at a news conference in Kuwait.

"The reason for the no-fly zones are to do precisely what they are doing, and that is to prevent Saddam Hussein from posing a threat to Kuwait or his neighbors, and we intend to continue to enforce them," Cohen said. "Anyone who suggests those should be stopped seems to me is undercutting the U.N. Security Council Resolutions themselves. Now the Russians have signed on to the Security Council Resolutions. They voted for them and we would anticipate that they would continue to support them."

ITAR-TASS said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Russia's policy remains unchanged: it aims at implementing U.N. Security Council Resolutions linking with the lifting of sanctions against Iraq.

Ivanov called for solving the existing problems by respecting the interests of all states in the Gulf.

A number of countries including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and India are calling for the lifting of sanctions on Iraq, largely out of concern for the Iraqi people who have been ravaged by 10 years of deprivation.

The United Nations maintains the oil-for-food program is yielding more than enough food and medicine to take care of the population's needs and say Saddam Hussein has obstructed delivery of the humanitarian relief to his own people. This has been one of Cohen's key talking points as he tours the Gulf for the ninth and last time as secretary of defense.

"It is very clear what Iraq has to do in terms of dialogue: simply open up its doors, allow the inspectors from the United Nations to come in in order to satisfy those inspectors that they are in fact complying with what the United Nations and the international community has dictated that they must do before they can be welcomes back to the international community," Cohen said.

"And so for those calling for the lifting of sanctions, I would simply remind that that Saddam has violated the U.N. Security Council Resolutions," he said. "He has evicted and thrown out the inspectors. And now he asks for the lifting of the sanctions. If the sanctions were to be lifted under these circumstances where there has been non compliance, an absolute flouting of the rule of law, then it would undermine the credibility of the United Nations itself."

That Kuwait would even consider Ivanov's proposal seems a remote possibility: It was Iraq's chief victim and is still seeking war reparations for the destruction of property and the return of or information about the condition of more than 600 soldiers who were taken prisoner or went missing in action 10 years ago.

Kuwait is considering buying more than $2 billion worth of U.S.-made weaponry, including 16 Apache Longbows for $640 million, four C-130J transport planes and two KC-130J refueling tankers for $400 million and a $1.2 billion command, control and intelligence system made by Raytheon. The latter two sales would be direct commercial sales without U.S. government involvement. The Apaches would be bought from the U.S. Army through the foreign military sales program.

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Cohen also firmly rejected the idea, saying the only way for Iraq to get out from under sanctions would be for it to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for full and unfettered weapons inspections in Iraq. The official Russian news agency...
Sunday, 19 November 2000 12:00 AM
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