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Plan To Tighten Sanctions On Iraq

Plan To Tighten Sanctions On Iraq

Thu, 1 Mar 2001 12:59:54 -0500

Excerpts: State Dept Spokesman Boucher on Iraq Sanctions

(Sanctions on goods with military applications to be tightened)

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. government is moving in the direction of tightening sanctions on goods with military uses to prevent Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from acquiring weapons of mass destruction while loosening sanctions on consumer goods to Iraq.

"We are going to tighten the sanctions on weapons of mass destruction, tighten the sanctions on armaments, tighten the sanctions on the sorts of equipment and other materials that put the people of the region at risk. That is the direction that we are headed in," Boucher said at his regular press briefing in Washington February 28.

With regard to easing restrictions on consumer goods to Iraq, Boucher said, "If you tighten the controls on the weapons of mass destruction and further define the dual-use equipment..., then you can remove some of your restrictions, make the civilian stuff go more smoothly. And that will be the direction. "

Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed that message with U.S. allies during his recent trip to the Middle East and Europe.

Boucher said Powell received an agreement in principle from Syrian President Bashar Assad to put Iraq's oil exports through a Syrian pipeline under the U.N. oil-for-food program.

"They have agreed in principle in general terms that this pipeline activity should be brought under the UN Oil-for-Food program. In the meeting with Secretary Powell, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a direct commitment to do that," Boucher said.

Following are excerpts related to the Middle East from the transcript of Boucher's February 28 regular press briefing:

(begin transcript excerpts)

QUESTION: On the sanctions, could we go through it one more time? There are three categories: there are consumer goods; there are military materiel; and there are so-called dual-use things. I take it while you are easing up on consumer shipments, you say you are tightening the sanctions overall.

How do you do that if you are going to be easier on dual-use material -- more permissive on dual-use?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me go back to what the Secretary said to you yesterday at the European Union. He said we are going to tighten the sanctions on weapons of mass destruction, tighten the sanctions on armaments, tighten the sanctions on the sorts of equipment and other materials that put the people of the region at risk. That is the direction that we are headed in. That is the direction we discussed with people in the region, as well as allies when we got to Europe.

That goal, I think that direction, is one that we found a lot of support for, and it is one that we will work in further detail again with the people of the region, with the allies, with the Perm 5, as well as within our own government as we go forward.

To do that effectively, we know you have to strengthen the controls we have on the Oil-for-Food money, and part of the Secretary's diplomacy was to talk to the Syrians and others about bringing some of the exports that are not currently under the Oil-for-Food money, bringing that money into the UN accounts so that we have better control on that.

Part of the effort has to be to tighten up on his ability to smuggle. The Secretary talked to you about that yesterday, and that will be another direction that we have to formulate details for.

As you know, the trip was intended to discuss ideas, to hear views, to gather ideas, and to report back to the President. The Secretary has talked to the President this morning by telephone to fill him in on many of the things he heard and discussed during the trip. I think it is safe to say the President is pleased with where we are on this, and we will continue working to develop the details.

As for how those details will affect this category, that category or the other, I am not in a position to come out with lists of prohibited items or items for further attention or items that are fairly well assumed to be safe. But those kinds of details aren't developed at this point.

Q: You have spent most of your answer talking about tighter military -- the category of military items. We understand that. We were also told that more consumer goods will be permitted to go to Iraq, and we were also told that dual-use will be reviewed, with an aim of trying to take some of the burden -- all sorts of heartfelt things were said on the plane about the way these sanctions are falling on the Iraqi people.

So I'm asking how you're going to go about being tougher on military equipment if, at the same time, you're going to take a more lenient view of dual-use material? Because there's a reason they would do -- there was a reason for this in the first place.

MR. BOUCHER: Let me give you the one-sentence version, the one-sentence version of the longer answer I just gave you. If you tighten the controls on the weapons of mass destruction and further define the dual-use equipment that might be key to that process so that you can further define it and control those as well, then you can remove some of your restrictions, make the civilian stuff go more smoothly. And that will be the direction. But as I said in my previous answer, the details are not worked out yet.

Q: It sounds like this plan is going to require inspectors on one end to certify in Iraq what kinds of commercial goods are being brought in. I mean, how do you expect to get the Iraqis to agree on inspectors?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's been said that it's required, necessary, to carry this out. It's up to the Iraqi Government if they want to invite the inspectors back in and implement the --

Q: I'm talking about inspectors for the actual goods themselves.

MR. BOUCHER: We will take steps to tighten up on his ability to smuggle. That's clear. There have been cargo inspections in the past, airplane inspections in the past, and making that process work smoothly is obviously something we'll want to look at.

Q: On Iraq, do you have more about the kind of support you would be ready to provide to the Iraqi opposition to carry its activities inside the country?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't really tell you more at this point. We are discussing with them new licenses, new grant agreements. Haven't worked out all the details, but continuing to work within the framework of what we announced in September. So really the September framework in terms of policy and activities, that remains the guiding framework. We are working with them on the specifics of the money.

Q: Can you say exactly where things stand after the Secretary's conversation with Bashar about the oil that's going through that pipeline?

MR. BOUCHER: That we heard from President Bashar Assad of Syria a commitment -- let me go to my piece of paper here, if I can find it. Here we go. No, that wasn't it either. There we go. I'm almost there.

For some time, the Syrians have talked about adhering to the UN practices and sanctions with regard to their interaction, their economic interaction, with Iraq. They have agreed in principle in general terms that this pipeline activity should be brought under the UN Oil-for-Food program.

In the meeting with Secretary Powell, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a direct commitment to do that. It was quite clear. This will be a substantial accomplishment for the financial controls on Iraq. As many of you have discussed, it's not the oil. Last year, Iraq was pumping as much oil as it could, as it wanted to. The issue is the money and bringing that money under the auspices of the UN program is what's important.

The timing of this step will be explored with the Syrians and the UN Security Council members. The Oil-for-Food resolution gets renewed every six months. Sometime a few months from now it would normally be renewed, but whether we and the Syrians and the other Security Council members want to do that on a different schedule or not is something we'll have to discuss.

Q: I thought he had denied any circumvention. Your rather gentle description has him as being in a conciliatory mood all along. If you want to say that, fine, but there has been --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't --

Q: You said he wants to get along with the -- that's what he told the Secretary now finally. But in the weeks leading up to it, we kept asking you every day what they say about these reports, and you kept saying they're checking into it. But they were denying they were doing anything wrong.

MR. BOUCHER: I think, Barry, you may be confusing apples and oranges.

Q: No, oil. Oil, illegal and legal.

MR. BOUCHER: As far as the facts of what has been flowing through the pipeline and our discussions, I think I've talked about that quite a bit. As far as the policy that the Syrian Government has stated all along, they have indeed stated there was a policy of bringing this under the UN auspices. The question was whether it was at a point in the testing or production phase. They talked about doing that when the production phase was under way, and obviously there has been a lot of differing information as to exactly where they were.

The point is that now they made a direct commitment to bring it under UN auspices at whatever phase it is now.

Q: Having talked to these -- some of these leaders in the region, not all of them, Mr. Walker went out to talk to some others -- do you know anything more about leakage? Can this leakage have occurred without the complicity of the leaders of these countries? Evidently you find a need to tighten. Tightening means something has been going wrong. It hasn't been going wrong in a vacuum; it's been going wrong. Is it because pirates are afoot in the land, or have these leaders been -- have these leaders been conspiring, or the governments conspiring with Iraq to circumvent the sanctions? And how can you tighten that up by looking at cargo, is the only example I think you've given?

MR. BOUCHER: There is smuggling. There is private smuggling. Somebody smuggles something out of Iraq. He makes a payment to the Iraqis for it, and that money goes in outside of the Oil-for-Food program. There has been some government-to-government activity, or government corporate activity like the Syrian pipeline that was not being handled under the payment system that the UN has set up.

So it is a variety of things. And how do we change it? Some places we change government policy, sometimes we work with governments to provide better oversight, and I'm sure we will come up with other ideas as we work out the details.

Q: A quick question. Has he received any promises --

MR. BOUCHER: Somebody else might ask a question, eventually. But sure, go ahead.

Q: They'll get their chance. But I'm trying to get direct answers to problems that you discovered, instead of your forward-looking positive spin on this.

MR. BOUCHER: I know you're looking for direct answers, but part of what we are doing now is going to be working out with the other governments involved with the Perm 5, within our own government, how to answer some of these questions and how to come up with effective answers.

Q: Did anybody promise better oversight? Let me just simply ask, did any leader there -- I know about the Syrian part --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we have talked about talking with the Jordanians about this policy, we talked about talking with the Turkish Government, Foreign Minister Cem in Brussels about the policy. I think everybody talked about a desire to go in this direction and to make the controls on Iraq's ability to acquire weapons tighter, better, and to make sure that Iraq was not allowed to threaten the people of the region again with weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

In our discussions with people about the direction, they understood that part of that was going to be getting a better handle on money and on smuggling, and that those two things would also be part of our policy. I would say, in agreeing to this direction for policy, people also understood that we would have to work out more effective measures to cut down on smuggling and money.

Q: Actually, I would like to get it in pretty early in the briefing, if possible. Six people were arrested in L.A. for conducting fundraising for an Iranian terrorist organization, the MEK. Apparently there is a press conference within a few minutes in L.A. about this.

What, if anything, does this building know about these particular suspects, and do you know about this group, the MEK, and how do you regard this group?

MR. BOUCHER: One, I am not going to do somebody else's press conference before they do it. I hadn't heard about this, and we will let somebody else announce since I don't know anything and somebody else does.

As far as the MEK, I think they are covered in our Patterns of Global Terrorism Report. I would refer you to that.

Q: Did they talk about the Turkish image from Iraq on the sanctions and other things?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they talked about the Iraq policy direction that we've been discussing with people throughout the region. They talked about the kind of steps that we heard from Syria and others, and they talked about the need to cooperate with Turkey. Foreign Minister Cem said he supported the direction and that we would work together on this.

The Secretary will also be seeing Foreign Minister Cem at the end of the month. He's coming to Washington on the 30th of March so they'll have a chance to talk more. I point out that Assistant Secretary Ned Walker is in Turkey today, is going to Turkey today, and will talk to them I think tomorrow to the Turkish Government about the whole Iraq policy and how to implement this.

(end transcript excerpts)


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