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Iraq Tells Shultz It Won't Use Poison Gas Against Rebel Kurds

October 04, 1988|NORMAN KEMPSTER | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — The Iraqi government will obey international laws against the use of poison gas in its campaign to suppress Kurdish rebels, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz assured Secretary of State George P. Shultz on Monday.

State Department spokesman Charles Redman said the U.S. government "welcomes this clear statement of Iraqi policy."

Last month, the Reagan Administration accused Iraq of using chemical weapons against Kurdish insurgents demanding autonomy for the mountainous area of northern Iraq where Kurds are in the majority. Iraq denied the accusation.

Redman refused to say whether Iraq's previous denials of having used gas--statements that the Administration maintains are untrue--should affect the credibility of Baghdad's new promise not to use such weapons in the future.

However, he said Washington considers Aziz's assurances to be "a serious policy statement on the part of the Iraqi government."

Redman said Shultz did not raise the earlier U.S. charges during his meeting with Aziz. He said the positions of both nations are well known, and "it is something we disagree on."

Both the Senate and House have passed legislation imposing economic sanctions on Iraq for its use of poison gas. The two houses have not yet resolved minor differences between their versions of the bill, however.

The Administration opposes the legislation because it considers it to be premature and too broad in its scope.

Both bills provide that the sanctions would be removed if the President certified that Iraq was no longer using chemical weapons. Presumably, President Reagan could cite Aziz's statement as a reason for lifting the sanctions before they are ever imposed.

Ambiguous Announcement

Iraqi officials announced Sept. 17 that Baghdad abides by all conventions on chemical warfare. It was not clear from that statement, however, whether the Iraqi regime considered its treatment of its own Kurdish citizens to be covered by the international protocols.

But Redman said that Aziz assured Shultz that Iraq will not use poison gas either against its domestic opponents or in international warfare.

Iraq earlier admitted using chemical weapons against Iran during the eight-year Persian Gulf War but claimed that it was only retaliating for Iranian use of poison gas.

On a related matter, Prince Saud al Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, signed and turned over to Shultz his country's agreement to abide by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The United States and the Soviet Union serve as co-custodians of the pact. Nations may join the treaty by depositing their agreement with either of the superpowers.

Shultz said the step "clearly demonstrates the peaceful intentions of Saudi Arabia." The United States earlier had protested the Saudi purchase of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles from China.

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