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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Gives Iraq Deal Wary Reception




UNITED NATIONS -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan enjoyed a hero's welcome on his return from Baghdad on Tuesday, but the United States said "ambiguities" in the deal he worked out with Iraq needed to be resolved.


U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Washington wanted to be sure there were no loopholes in the agreement intended to avert a military conflict over Iraq's suspected chemical and biological weapons.


President Bill Clinton also said he would be watching to see that Iraq's words were matched by its deeds.


"We have to be watching very closely now to see not just what Iraq says but what it does -- not just the stated commitments but the actual compliance," he said. "Let there be no doubt that we must remain committed to see that Saddam Hussein does not menace the world with weapons of mass destruction."


At United Nations headquarters, hundreds of staff members cheered Annan for the accord he signed with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.


"I want to thank all those who supported, who rooted, who prayed for this to happen," Annan said.


"I think we have a good agreement, an agreement that I will defend anywhere, and I'm sure that the member states would accept it."


The accord requires Security Council approval, and UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said late Tuesday morning that all signs coming from the council "were going rather decidedly" in that direction. The council did not immediately make a decision, and key members left the meeting early Tuesday afternoon.


"We believe that this agreement is a step in the right direction, but we need some clarifications in some of the language in the agreement,'' U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson said.


It could take a few days to get the clarifications the United States seeks, he said.


Aziz said on Iraqi television the agreement was a gain for his country that could eventually lead to the lifting of sanctions.


"I believe that we have achieved excellent political gains for the present and the future and practical gains related to the lifting of sanctions," he said.


Testifying before the U.S. Congress, Albright said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had "reversed course" by agreeing to grant UN inspectors immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to all suspected weapons sites, including presidential sites that were previously off limits.


But she said "there are some questions and ambiguities with respect to some of the procedures" involving the presidential sites.


"We are going to have to work closely with the Security Council to make sure to close any possible loopholes. That is our task for today," she said.


According to the text, the agreement provides for a "special group" of UN weapons experts and senior diplomats to inspect "presidential sites."


The deal makes clear that the new procedures apply only to eight defined presidential compounds, which are listed in the report and cover about 30 square kilometers.


The pact also says Iraq accepts all relevant Security Council resolutions and will cooperate fully with the UN Special Commission charged with disarming Iraq, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Earlier, Clinton said U.S. forces would stay in the Gulf until he was convinced Baghdad would honor its word. U.S. troops were still pouring into Kuwait as part of the military buildup.


In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed the deal but said Britain would immediately press for a Security Council resolution spelling out the retaliation that any breach would trigger.


"While the agreement signed in Baghdad is welcome, it is not in itself enough," Blair told parliament.


France also wanted a resolution that would warn Iraq it faced "serious consequences" if it failed to honor the accord.


World leaders "are discussing a possible draft resolution which would include a very clear warning to Iraq that it would face very serious consequences if it violated its commitments," French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret said.


Meanwhile Iraqi newspapers hailed the agreement to end the long-running standoff, calling it "a victory for Iraq and a defeat for the American aggression."


French President Jacques Chirac's office said Tuesday that he and Russian President Boris Yeltsin believed the accord was a "good deal."


Iraq's UN envoy Nizar Hamdoon said in Paris that Baghdad would prepare within weeks a new aid distribution plan to implement an expanded UN oil-for-food program, easing the impact on ordinary Iraqis of the UN sanctions slapped on Baghdad after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.


French officials also turned their focus toward easing the sanctions which cannot be lifted until arms inspectors verify that Iraq has been cleared of any weapons of mass destruction.