Baghdad blasts U.S. conditions for cease-fire


NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime lashed out yesterday at U.S.-proposed conditions for a permanent cease-fire in the Persian Gulf conflict, accusing Washington of harboring an "intent to rob Iraq of its sovereignty and to mortgage Iraq's resources."

The harshly worded criticism came from the official Iraqi News Agency, which published the text of a 12-page document under discussion by the U.N. Security Council. The document was circulated among council members Thursday.

Beset by rebellion and desperate shortages of food, water and medical supplies in the postwar chaos, Mr. Hussein's government has little influence left, but it nevertheless dug in against conditions aimed at removing its inventory of mass-destruction weapons and forcing the payment of war damages.

The cease-fire document would fix the long-disputed border between Iraq and Kuwait, establish a U.N. truce observer force and set up a mechanism to deduct the costs of war reparations for Kuwait from future earnings of Iraqi oil exports. It also demands the destruction of Iraq's remaining ballistic missile forces and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons facilities and stockpiles.

Even if those conditions were met, some Bush administration officials have argued, the economic embargo against Iraq should remain in place so long as Mr. Hussein remains in power. "The U.S. draft resolution demonstrated the U.S. intent to rob Iraq of its sovereignty and to mortgage Iraq's resources," the INA report said.

Nearly $80 billion in debt from its 8-year war with Iran, Baghdad had stretched its credit to the limit before the gulf crisis and now has no hope of more. Food is Iraq's immediate problem -- the Security Council lifted the embargo on foodstuffs last week -- and Baghdad is looking for humanitarian shipments.

"It is important that there should not be any delay . . . because delay would inflict harm on the Iraqi people," Taha Mohieddin Maruf, a top Iraqi official, said yesterday.

[Iranian radio reported fighting yesterday in many areas in Iraq and said rebel units were poised for an assault on Baghdad, according to the Associated Press.]

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