UN puts Iraq in review

United Nations: Jan 30  (South News) The Security Council agreed to form the study panels on Saturday in its first, modest step to break the diplomatic logjam over Iraq, diluting the UN Special Commission's influence as the prime disarmament body.

In agreeing to a Canadian plan, the council said the  three panels would concern Iraqi disarmament and long-term monitoring, humanitarian concerns and issues stemming from the 1991 Gulf War despite Russia's call for the dismissal of UNSCOM chief Richard Butler.

The council, after days of intensive discussions, decided to convene a disarmament panel involving the participation of and expertise from UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The council also would for the first time call on the UN secretariat and any other relevant expertise to assess Iraqi disarmament and long-term monitoring.

The formula marks a compromise between the US and Russian delegations, enabling the council to embark on more substantive discussions in the coming weeks.

These are to include future arms inspections, following the withdrawal of all UN inspectors from Iraq ahead of last month's bombings, and what to do about eight-year-old sanctions. China, France and Russia say Iraqi officials could be among those asked to provide "relevant expertise" to the panel.

Russia on Thursday demanded the immediate ouster of UN chief weapons inspector Richard Butler and fumed over his remarks in an Australian newspaper that "brutally twisted" Moscow's position on Iraq.

"Neither his professional qualities, nor his moral qualities allow Butler to stay in his job. He should be fired as soon as possible," Russian foreign ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told a press briefing.

"We draw attention with indignation to the expressions of Butler in this Australian newspaper, where he expressed brutally twisted judgements on Russia's position with the Security Council on Iraq, as well as unworthy and improper attacks towards Russia's representative to the UN Sergei Lavrov," Rakhmanin said.

"Butler used expressions not in keeping with his status as a diplomat and high-ranking official of the United Nations."