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Iraq Makes Official Its Renunciation of Kuwait Claims : Persian Gulf: Deputy premier gives documents to U.S. ambassador at United Nations. But sanctions remain in force.

November 15, 1994|STANLEY MEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UNITED NATIONS — In a brief and cold professional exchange, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz on Monday handed American Ambassador Madeleine Albright a packet of legal documents giving up all of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's claims to the territory of Kuwait.

The documents--an official recognition of Kuwait and its territorial integrity--pleased the Security Council, but not enough for it to lift the sanctions on Iraq.

After members completed their bimonthly review of the sanctions, Albright, who is serving as president of the council this month, told reporters that the Security Council had decided to continue the sanctions "without change."

That was no surprise. The real battle over sanctions within the Security Council is not expected to take place for another six months.

The meeting between Aziz and Albright, which lasted no more than two minutes, was the first between Cabinet-level officials of the two governments since former Secretary of State James A. Baker III conferred with Aziz before the start of the Persian Gulf War, a war fought because of Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.

Albright, however, insisted that she was meeting Aziz only in her capacity as council president. In fact, her spokesman, James P. Rubin, said that she had betrayed her role as American ambassador only by wearing a brooch in the form of a snake. That was her way of thumbing her nose at Iraqi poet Ghazi Thai and at the government-run newspaper, Al Iraq.

Al Iraq recently published rhymed couplets by the poet in both English and Arabic that heaped scorn on Albright, blamed her for the sanctions and likened her to a snake. "Albright, Albright," the poem said, "why do you hate the day and love the night?"

American officials refused to let photographers into the brief Aziz-Albright meeting in the small office of the council president outside the main chamber of the Security Council. But an American official, describing the session for reporters, said that Aziz "did not seem his ebullient self" and that Albright "was very professional."

After the session with Aziz, Albright, aside from passing out the Iraqi documents, also handed each ambassador aerial photos of reconstructed government buildings and official residences in Iraq as evidence that Hussein, while accusing the United Nations of depriving his people of food with sanctions, is lavishing $1.2 billion on luxurious working space and living quarters for the ruling class.

"If they have enough money to build these pleasure palaces," an American official told reporters, ". . . they ought to have enough money to provide additional services and goods to their people.

"I know you all feel like snickering," the official said to reporters, "but this is to rebut the charge . . . that the Security Council and the United States are responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people."

This accusation, he said, is even believed by some people in the United States. He said that Albright recently received a broom from an American who called her a witch and blamed her for the suffering in Iraq. In a letter of reply, Albright, who has kept the broom in her office, told the writer that the real culprit is Hussein, a leader who does not care about his people.

Aziz dismissed the American outrage over the buildings as "rubbish."

"Every government has a palace for its head of state," he said, "and Iraq is a country of great builders. . . . The national palace is a symbol of the nation . . . and we are proud that all the sites that were bombed (in the Gulf War) have been rebuilt."

The distribution of the photos seemed to strike some ambassadors as somewhat histrionic. When asked about them, French Ambassador Jean-Bernard Merimee laughed and said, "It is an interesting display of photographs, but it has nothing to do with the sanctions."

After turning over the documents, Aziz told reporters that it is time for "the council to honor its own resolutions" and lift the sanctions.

But there is no support in the Security Council for an immediate lifting of sanctions. The Russian and French ambassadors have suggested that the council members consider lifting the sanctions on the Iraqi sale of oil if the Hussein government cooperates fully, for six months, with a system of U.N. monitoring designed to make sure that it does not resume its programs of building weapons of mass destruction.

Although the resolution covering this appears to provide for the lifting of sanctions whenever Iraq has eliminated such weapons and accepted a system of monitoring, the Clinton Administration insists that, no matter what the small print of the resolution states, no sanctions of any kind should be lifted until Iraq complies with all U.N. resolutions and thus satisfies the council members of its peaceful intentions.

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