The Mideast conflict and events in Afghanistan, these have been the headlines of most news agencies for a long period already, have faded into the background now. The talk of the day is connected with Iraq. Saddam Hussein has informed he is ready to resume talks with the UN on the return of the international experts to the country without any preliminary conditions.
According to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, he is ready to receive an Iraqi delegation and discuss implementation of the UN Security Council’s resolutions that provide for the return of UN inspectors to Baghdad. The experts would take up examination of Iraq’s military program.
It is not clear so far whether it this Hussein’s tactical move, directed at appeasing the world community and the USA first of all, or it is an appropriate decision made in accordance with the unfavorable external political situation. The answer is "yes" for both variants. The USA’s reproaches and offence towards Iraq have been ignored by the Iraqi leadership for the time being. Saddam’s fine diplomacy being carried out now has allowed Iraq to reconcile itself with its Arab neighbors, Iran and Kuwait, and obtain China’s support, which is considered to be a significant member of the world’s political elite.
As for Russia, it will be the very last to surrender Iraq because of very clear reasons: oil and debts. The situation seemed to have been improved, but it was a false impression. Last week ,US President George W.Bush called Iraq a part of “the evil axis” and made a slightly veiled statement about possible military action against Baghdad. This has given a new impulse to the events. Analysts suppose that the military operation may start in April – June 2002. Saddam Hussein probably understands that his regime may survive only in case of diplomatic concessions. Hussein’s tractability is especially important because of the fact that, this summer, the UN Security Council will consider the sanctions regime that was introduced against Iraq by the UN in 1991. Much depends upon Iraq’s behavior: the sanctions may be lifted, toughened, or may be left unchanged.
The lifting of the sanctions is very profitable for Russia. Russian oil companies will be able to extract Iraqi oil, and Iraq itself will be able to repay its debts to Russia. The sums of the debts are rather large. It will not be a surprise if the decision mentioned above has been made under the pressure of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
What is the reaction of the UN officials to the statement of the Iraqi leadership? The UN diplomats are careful about the new initiative of Baghdad, and most of them say “time will tell.” If the talks of Kofi Annan with Iraqi representatives are a success, the UN Security Council will at least demand permission for a return of the UN military inspectors from Iraq.
The USA has already defined its attitude to Hussein’s statement.
Four people died in the raid of the US and British air forces against the positions of the Iraqi air defense near Mosul on Monday. A Pentagon spokesman has confirmed the fact of the bombing the Iraqi positions; he also said that it was the Iraqi party that provoked the raid by firing on the planes.
Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/02/05/36601.html