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U.S. backs 3 U.N. panels to review Iraq's actions; Canadian plan designed to break police impasse within Security Council


UNITED NATIONS -- The United States threw its support yesterday behind a Canadian plan that would convene three expert panels to review all aspects of Iraq's relations with the United Nations in an effort to break a Security Council policy stalemate.

The exercise sounds much like the comprehensive review proposed last year as a reward to Iraq for cooperating with inspectors. Now, it appears to be the minimal course of action the council may be able to agree on after U.S. and British airstrikes last month.

The reviews of disarmament compliance, the condition of Iraqi people living under sanctions and an accounting of the missing since Iraq invaded Kuwait -- 600 Kuwaitis and others -- as well as Kuwaiti property would form the basis for making larger decisions later. Arab nations are particularly insistent that Kuwaiti claims be part of the review.

"I'm hoping that in the next couple of days we will be in a position to know whether this bridge we are trying to build will hold the weight of the council," said Robert Fowler, Canada's representative on the Security Council, after a meeting yesterday.

"But I would reiterate the fact that what we're talking about is procedure," Fowler said. "We're not now negotiating what is going to happen in Iraq. What we're talking about is how to get to a discussion of what's going to happen in Iraq, and on that I'm fairly confident."

The U.S. representative, Peter Burleigh, endorsed the Canadian proposal, now jointly proposed with Argentina, before yesterday's session.

"Constituting these assessment panels, as has been proposed by the Canadians and the Argentines, is the way to go now because there is a deep division in the council, and going to the longer-term questions now is not useful," he said.

Burleigh said that in this context, the report submitted to the council this week by the U.N. Special Commission would play a part in the assessment.

Russia has rejected the report, saying it no longer will deal with UNSCOM or its executive chairman, Richard Butler. The Russians, backed by China and Malaysia, also blocked distribution of the UNSCOM report, which was sent to the council Monday. Yesterday, the Netherlands and Slovenia formally requested a lifting of the ban, and the report can now be published.

Celso L. N. Amorim, Brazil's representative on the council and this month the council president, said yesterday that he hoped the council could agree on establishing panels within the next few days. He acknowledged, though, that getting consensus on the disarmament review would be "difficult."

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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