After more than ten years, Iraq is more determined than ever to compel the United Nations to remove sanctions, which have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and crippled their economy.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan emerges from a meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said Al-Sahaf at the United Nations in New York 26 February 2001.
In an iviews.com interview, the Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Mohamed Al-Dori, lashed out at the United States and Britain for the recent bombing of Baghdad.
"The...bombing was a big loss for them (the US and Britain). International public opinion has been supportive of Iraq, making the US and Britain truly the ultimate losers. They must have realized by now, that bombing Iraq was a big mistake, even though they tried to justify their aggression by stating that Iraq was threatening their warplanes," said Al-Dori.
Nonetheless, the Iraqi ambassador seemed determined to sway international opinion and policies toward his country. Talks were held in New York between UN and Iraqi officials and discussions were also held between UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and top Iraqi officials in Amman during the Arab summit.
Al-Dori insisted that Iraq's genuine attempts to find a middle-ground solution to satisfy both parties has yet to be well received by the UN.
"In the end of our meeting with the Secretary General, we asked him to transmit our position to the Security Council members. Then we waited to hear their response but until now, we haven't received any reactions," said Al-Dori.
And as Iraq awaits another round of negotiations slated for May 7 in New York, Al-Dori remains optimistic.
"We hold a strong conviction that meeting with the Secretary-General is still useful. We are hoping that the second round of talks would prove fruitful. Meanwhile, we are still looking forward to hearing from Mr. Annan in regards to our original requests."
But UN officials appeared more cautious with regards to their expectations for the outcome of the upcoming meeting.
"The Secretary-General doesn't want to get into a bargaining position. Basically, the Security Council position is well-known and is laid out in the resolutions, and that has to be the Secretary-General's bottom line," said Annan spokesman Fred Eckhard.
But Al-Dori insists that Iraq is fully compliant with UN demands.
"There is nothing else to inspect. Iraq has no chemical, biological or any other kind of weapons of mass destruction," said the Iraqi ambassador.
Furthermore, Iraq remains adamant about protecting its airspace.
"We will fight and attack the American and British warplanes (which fly over Iraq). We will continue to do that. We believe that it's not only our right, but also our duty to protect our sovereignty, airspace, and independence. We hold no regard for the no-fly-zone areas, for they have no legal basis, nor are they accepted by the Security Council," Al-Dori said.
Baghdad's strong stance on the sanctions issue has surprised most observers who expected Iraqi officials to make concessions early in the discussions.
Even the seemingly reasonable American offer to alter the current sanctions regime into "smart sanctions" was dismissed by Al-Dori, as was it condemned by the Iraqi leadership earlier in Baghdad.
The top Iraqi official response to the American proposal was: "We will fight until the sanctions are completely lifted. We won't accept an inch less than that. We will do all that we can to lift the sanctions forever."
"Enough is enough. We have suffered for ten years, and our people are not willing to accept any proposal that would keep the sanctions imposed," said Al-Dori.