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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cautious UN Team Returns To Iraq

United Nations weapons inspectors, including Americans, arrived back in Iraq on Friday after an accord hailed by Iraq and Russia but greeted with caution by the United States.

Washington underscored its skepticism by moving more warplanes and ships into the gulf.

Al-Thawra, the newspaper of Iraq's ruling Baath party, said: "Our latest battle with the world oppressors in America has led to a great victory worthy of pride and glory.

"We have proved to everyone ... that we have a national iron will," it added in a front-page editorial.

Russian media basked in the glory of staging a rare diplomatic coup on the world stage by negotiating a way out of the crisis -- at least for now -- between the United Nations and Iraq.

The apparent success was tempered by U.S. warnings that Washington had conceded nothing and expects Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to play by the rules.

"This person, man, has in fact the ability to use weapons of mass destruction that threaten the region, threaten Europe and the world, and therefore it's our responsibility, along with other countries, to keep him in his box," said U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

In New York, Russia followed up on its deal to defuse the crisis by urging major changes in the UN arms inspection regime to increase the number of inspectors and scale back checks of Iraq's nuclear program.

The proposals were submitted during an emergency meeting of the UN Special Commission, which is verifying whether Iraq has complied with UN orders to destroy its long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

Baghdad expelled six American inspectors Nov. 13, contending they were spies. The UN chief arms inspector pulled out the whole team the next day. The inspection team of 70 to 80 members flew to Iraq from Bahrain on Friday to resume monitoring the destruction of Iraq's weapons. Asked about their future work, they responded, "No comment."

In Moscow, Russian media reveled in one of the few diplomatic coups the country has enjoyed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta heralded it as a welcome change for the better after years of trying to recapture lost glories and watching U.S. domination grow. "This success is the first of its kind for several years," it said. "This time Moscow acted ... as a world power, averting what had at first seemed an inevitable war in the Gulf." A Russian-Iraqi statement was issued in Baghdad and Moscow on Thursday after a post-midnight meeting in Geneva at which the world's major powers demanded that Iraq allow the inspectors to return unconditionally.

Iraq's official news agency INA quoted the statement as saying Russia would contribute to a rapid lifting of the sanctions imposed for Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, particularly on Iraq's oil exports.

Albright, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Russia has long argued the case for lifting sanctions and that additional pressure would have no effect if Iran flouts UN resolutions.

"We always made it very clear that the United States would not agree until Saddam Hussein fulfilled his obligations under the relevant sanctions resolutions and ... the rest of the Security Council agreed with us," she said.

U.S. President Bill Clinton said he would "wait and "see" if Iraq met a promise to comply fully and unconditionally with UN resolutions on the arms inspections.

The U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington arrived in the Gulf overnight, a U.S. Navy spokesman at 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain said.

The carrier, with 50 combat aircraft and about 25 other planes aboard, was accompanied by the cruiser Normandy.

The United States now has about 150 aircraft in the Gulf aboard two carriers and scores more at air bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. Washington and UN officials have accused Iraq of lying, obstructing inspections and hiding its weapons programs.

The Special Commission meeting in New York was closed, but the Russian representative, Gennady Gatilov, said during a break that Moscow had submitted a number of proposed changes.

U.S. officials fear the proposals may be aimed at undermining the authority of the commission executive director, Richard Butler, who has accused Iraq of repeated violations of UN orders to allow his teams to conduct unconditional inspections.

Gatilov said he had proposed that the International Atomic Energy Agency halt active inspections of Iraq's nuclear program and shift to lower-profile surveillance performed on all countries that have signed the nuclear nonproliferation agreement.

Gatilov also said he would propose an increase in the number of UN inspectors to bring "more balanced" membership. Iraq wants more representation by the other permanent members of the Security Council: Russia, China, France and Britain.

Gatilov said the goal is to speed completion of the inspection work to hasten the day when sanctions can be lifted.