Less than two months after Secretary-General Kofi Annan won an agreement from President Saddam Hus-sein of Iraq to allow unfettered weapons inspections of presidential properties, there are signs that Iraq intends to curtail access to the sites.
In a report that is expected to go to the Security Council in the next few days, the arms expert who led an inspection of the eight sites after the agreement was reached says his Iraqi counterpart told him the visits were not part of an "indefinite" process. Iraq had previously contended that presidential sites should be off-limits."It is quite clear that there is a difference in view here, and I reflected that in this report," the deputy chief inspector, Charles Duelfer, who led the inspections and wrote part of the report, said in an interview Tuesday. "This issue will ultimately have to be addressed by the Security Council."
Iraq's initial refusal to allow inspectors in the presidential sites, including one large palace complex in Baghdad, played a major part in leading the United States to the brink of a military attack on Iraq early this year.
Nizar Hamdoon, Iraq's U.N. representative , said in an interview Tuesday that there would be absolutely no back-tracking on the agreement negotiated by Annan. "We're still committed to that," he said. "There's been no change in our position."
But Duelfer says he met resistance from the leader of the Iraqi arms-negotiating team, Gen. Amir Mohammed Rashid, when Duelfer asked for a written agreement that changes would not be made at the sites without at least 24 hours' notice.
Rashid balked, telling Duelfer that any such promise would prejudice the Iraqi position that the inspections were "a finite process, not an indefinite process." Duelfer wrote in his report that Rashid made it clear that Iraqis considered the right of access limited to perhaps no more than short follow-up visits in the very near future.