U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday canceled a visit to Washington next week as debate continued in the Security Council over a resolution endorsing his deal with Iraq on weapons inspections.
Fred Eckhard, Annan’s spokesman, denied that the postponement had anything to do with criticism by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and others in Congress of the agreement that the U.N. chief negotiated in Baghdad on Sunday with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Annan needed to be close by to answer questions that council members might have about the pact, Eckhard said.
The purpose of the long-planned trip, scheduled for Monday through Wednesday, was to press Congress and the Clinton administration to repay the more than $1 billion in dues the United States owes the world body. Legislation to restore more than $800 million of the arrears has been stalled in Congress, first by the insertion of antiabortion language only marginally related to the issue and second by renewed partisan wrangling over details of the bill.
Eckhard said Annan intended to tell Congress that he had fulfilled the pledge made when elected in December 1996 to reform the U.N., and that it was time for the United States to make good on President Clinton’s pledge to pay its overdue bills.
Annan probably would not have received a warm reception from congressional Republicans even before the Iraq deal. Although his reforms are considered the most extensive in U.N. history, they did not go far enough for many GOP lawmakers, who would have preferred even more reductions in U.N. staff.
The Iraq agreement would have been a source of more friction. Although it has won the administration’s backing and that of many in Congress, Lott on Wednesday on the Senate floor not only criticized the accord but attacked Annan.
Eckhard said Annan will reschedule the trip.
Meanwhile, the Security Council met behind closed doors again to discuss a resolution proposed by Britain and Japan to endorse the Baghdad package. No vote is expected until Monday or Tuesday. The United States also wants a warning in the resolution.
“The American position is that there should be an unmistakable sign to Iraq that if they fail to comply there will be the severest consequences,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson told reporters.
Russia, China and France are permanent members of the council--along with the U.S. and Britain--and have veto power. They have not rejected the wording, but they are wary of language that could be interpreted as approval, in advance, for a military strike if Iraq fails to adhere to the agreement.
The U.S. and Britain are leaving their forces in the Persian Gulf until the weapons inspections procedures reached in Iraq are tested and it is clear that Hussein is living up to the agreement.
The pact covers eight “presidential” compounds around Iraq that Baghdad had declared off limits to the arms inspectors. Under the Annan plan, the inspectors can visit the sites while accompanied by diplomats. Details are still being worked out, but Annan has said the weapons inspection team will maintain control of the investigation.
Under terms of the 1991 Persian Gulf War cease-fire, the council cannot lift the economic embargo on Iraq until inspectors certify that Baghdad no longer has the capacity to wage biological and chemical war and has gotten rid of its long-range missiles.