The Security Council has warned Iraq of severest consequences if it violates a deal to open presidential palaces to U.N. arms inspectors, but key members said it did not give a green light for a U.S. attack if Baghdad breaks the accord. In a unanimous vote last night, the 15-member council endorsed the accord signed last week in Baghdad by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz of Iraq and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to open the palaces and avert a threatened U.S.-British attack. Annan said if his deal holds, he believed, “We will be moving on to a period when Iraq will complete its obligations, and the council can begin thinking of lifting the sanctions imposed more than seven years ago.” The resolution, drafted by Britain and Japan, declared that any violation of the Annan accord would have severest consequences for Iraq. U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson said the vote was a victory for the United States, noting the resolution included the severest warning that Washington had demanded. But several councilmembers, including those which have supported a hard line against Iraq, insisted the resolution was not a blank check for U.S. military action, unless the council authorizes it. The United States has maintained that it has sufficient authority to use force under several resolutions enacted since 1991.
Despite a harshly worded U.N. resolution, Iraq vows to stand by its promise to open presidential palaces to arms inspectors. The Iraqi foreign minister says the Security Council resolution warning Baghdad of severest consequences if it violates the pact is just a face-saving measure for the U.S. But Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf says Iraq will comply with the weapons inspection agreement endorsed by the council last night. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz of Iraq echoes the foreign minister’s sentiments. Aziz tells the Iraqi News Agency that Baghdad is committed to the pact. Their comments are the first official Iraqi reaction to the council’s vote and come at a time when the U.S. was basically rebuked by the U.N. Security Council or set back in its efforts to be able to launch an immediate strike if Iraq did not honor its commitment.
Haiti has asked Panama, Honduras and the United States to extradite 10 leaders of a 1991 military coup wanted on charges of murder and torture, this according to Haitian Foreign Affairs Ministry officials. The requests were made two weeks ago under warrants issued in December. They accuse the former military junta leader Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph-Michel François and General Philippe Biamby and seven others of masterminding murder, torture and illegal arrest during their three years in power. They governed from the time Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in '91 until he was returned to power in 1994. The extradition requests were for prosecutions related to the April 1994 massacre of about 25 civilians in Gonaïves. General Cédras is living in Panama. François is in Honduras. Biamby is in Miami. Tune in tomorrow to Democracy Now!, when we'll interview former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Veterans’ groups are demanding the military inform as many as 400,000 troops they may have been exposed to hazardous depleted uranium from shells fired by U.S. tanks and aircraft during the Persian Gulf War. The National Gulf War Resource Center, in a study released yesterday, estimates at least 400,000 servicemembers had contact with depleted uranium either during combat, while recovering contaminated weapons, or while visiting the battleground after the conflict. Paul Sullivan, executive director of the center, which oversees 45 veterans’ groups, said veterans have been left twisting in the wind for seven years. He added, “We firmly believe this is a conservative estimate of those exposed.” The Defense Department has not yet reviewed the report, but a Pentagon spokesperson on Gulf War illness issues said the amount of exposure varies greatly.
The number of organized hate groups in the United States grew last year, mostly through new chapters of established white power organizations, this according to the Southern Poverty Law Center in a new report. In the report, detailed today by The New York Times, the research group said 474 hate groups and their chapters engaged in some form of racist behavior in 1997. The center used a different methodology to count the groups, so previous numbers cannot be directly compared, but if the old methodology had been used, the latest figures would represent a 20% increase from ’96. Most of the newer groups come from a growth in the number of chapters of groups like the Ku Klux Klan and churches belonging to the Christian Identity movement, whose followers cite the Bible as the source for their racist views.
President Clinton confidant Vernon Jordan is due to be questioned today before the grand jury investigating the Monica Lewinsky matter.