Five weeks after the United States and its allies drove Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait, Iraq on Saturday accepted U.N. terms for a formal cease-fire in the Persian Gulf war.
In accepting the conditions, the National Assembly in Baghdad, which follows Saddam's dictates, called the arrangement "unjust," but it acknowledged Iraq had little choice if it was to avert further degradation.The message of Iraqi acceptance was delivered to the offices of the U.N. secretary-general and to the chairman of the Security Council in New York by the Iraqi representative at the United Nations, Abdul Amir Anbari. He told reporters Iraq accepted the terms without conditions but added he considered the resolution "one-sided and unfair."
Mohammad Abulhasan, Kuwait's U.N. ambassador, said he was worried the 23-page letter contains too many conditions and said he will ask the Security Council to reject it. Abulhasan did not specify what problems he had with the Iraqi letter. "It makes me very worried," he said.
Thomas R. Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said, "Acceptance produces a feeling of some happiness, tempered with caution. We want to look very carefully at what Iraq has said."
Under the terms of the resolution, adopted Wednesday, the Iraqi acceptance automatically activates a permanent cease-fire between the opponents in the gulf war. But the Pentagon did not immediately issue orders to American forces in the Persian Gulf proclaiming a formal end to hostilities.
A White House spokesman, Roman Popadiuk, said the Bush administration was waiting for formal notification from the United Nations.
The Iraqi acceptance clears the way for a series of steps to ensure the peace. Those include the establishment of a U.N. peacekeeping force, the destruction of Iraq's biological and chemical weapons and its long-range missiles, and the payment of Iraqi reparations to Kuwait for damage suffered after the invasion Aug. 2.
Iraq's move also will clear the way for the eventual end to the economic embargo against Baghdad, and it will facilitate the withdrawal of American troops occupying15 percent of Iraqi territory in the south of the country,
The formal acceptance of the cease-fire comes a day before Secretary of State James Baker is to arrive in the Middle East for a new round of talks with regional leaders. Baker met with President Bush on Saturday in Houston, but an administration spokesman said their talks should not be taken as an indication that some fresh diplomatic move was in the works.
The Iraqi acceptance is a major diplomatic milestone in the campaign begun by the United States and its allies last August to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait and strip Saddam of the military power that made his army the most feared in the Arab world.
But the allied campaign against Saddam has not ended the Iraqi leader's hold on power. He still appears firmly in control. He tightened his political grip Saturday by naming a new defense minister - his cousin, son-in-law and one-time bodyguard Hussein Kamel Hassan, who played a major role in crushing the postwar revolt against Saddam.
Hassan's appointment, replacing army professional Saadi Tuma Abbas, strengthened yet again the power of the inner circle of kinsmen from Saddam's hometown, Takrit. Hassan's brother is interior minister.
The vote in the 250-seat Iraqi Parliament accepting the Security Council resolution was said by Iraqi officials to be 160 to 31, although the numbers, like the assembly itself, represent little more than window-dressing for decisions of the Supreme Revolutionary Command Council, which met under Saddam's chairmanship Saturday night.
"While declaring that this resolution is unjust, they have found there was no other choice than to accept it in order to defeat the American-Zionist plot," said parliamentary speaker Saadi Mehdi Saleh, referring to what Baghdad depicts as an American and Israeli plot to destroy Iraq. Drawing on Koranic texts, he said, "We must sometimes, for our own good, accept that which displeases us."
The allied air war that preceded the late February ground offensive into Iraq and Kuwait destroyed much of Iraq's infrastructure - including roads, bridges, oil refineries, water-purification plants, electricity-generating stations and communications networks. To rebuild them and thus try to restore the regime's credibility, Iraq needs to free itself of the economic and other sanctions imposed after Baghdad's invasion of Kuwait.
But Security Council Resolution 687, approved by the Security Council last Wednesday and accepted by the Iraqi parliament Saturday, makes economic regeneration conditional on the destruction of Baghdad's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons potential under U.N. supervision.
Until those capabilities are destroyed, a trade ban remains in force, and until Iraq can resume oil exports, it has no way of earning money to finance its own reconstruction. At the same time, the 20-page resolution mortgages part of Iraq's oil revenues to pay reparations to Kuwait and holds it responsible for environmental damage caused by its destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells.
The resolution also demands that Iraq withdraw support for international terrorism, respect its border with Kuwait and accept the presence of a U.N. observer force on the frontier. An arms sales embargo remains in force until the Security Council agrees to lift it.