US against UN Iraq arms inspection for now

By ELI J. LAKE and RICK TOMKINS  |  Oct. 1, 2002 at 6:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The United States will oppose the return of international weapons inspectors to Iraq unless the U.N. Security Council passes a new resolution first, outlining both the need for those inspections to be unfettered and the consequences to Iraq if they are not, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday.

His comments follow an announcement in Vienna by Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector that Iraq had agreed to allow the return of a preliminary contingent of inspectors within two weeks.

Secretary of State Colin Powell Tuesday said, "We do not believe they should go back in under the old set of resolutions and under the old inspections regime. And therefore we do not believe they should go in until they have new instructions in the form of a new resolution."

Earlier Tuesday, a senior State Department official told United Press International that if such a resolution were unattainable, the United States would "go into thwart mode."

In Vienna Tuesday, Blix, who is chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, said the talks with Iraq dealt with the logistics for a return of inspectors after a four-year hiatus, but added that Iraqi officials had assured him they would be granted unfettered access to suspected weapons sites.

He said the talks, which included representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency, were "businesslike and focused."

The agreement, however, did not sideline a 1998 memorandum of understanding negotiated by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and endorsed by the Security Council, which placed restrictions on surprise inspections at eight so-called "presidential sites."

Those sites cover hundreds of acres both within and outside of Baghdad, and critics of the inspection process argued that the memorandum gave too much leeway to the Iraqis to hide potential weapons production equipment.

"On the question of access, it was clarified that all sites are subject to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access," Blix said in a statement.

"However, the Memorandum of Understanding of 1998 established special procedures for access to eight presidential sites."

He also said that the Baghdad team handed over four CD-ROMs containing the backlog of semi-annual reports Iraq was to deliver to the United Nations since 1998.

The UNMOVIC chairman said he expected lead inspectors to be on the ground by Oct. 15 and that they could fly into the country, landing at Baghdad's Saddam International Airport, rather than at the Habbaniya landing strip some 50 miles from the capital.

"We went through a very great many practical arrangements," he said. "They start with when do you fly in to Baghdad, then how are the customs controls, what can you bring in, the accommodations of inspectors in Baghdad, the premises for our center in Baghdad and (its) refurbishment, the movement within Iraq."

Conditions on inspectors entering the restricted sites would be a sticking point with the United States and Britain, who say the complexes must be open to inspection since contraband material could be concealed there.

The White House Tuesday afternoon was unavailable for immediate comment on the Blix deal.

Blix is scheduled to brief the United Nations Thursday on his talks with the Iraqi delegation.

Also Tuesday -- at a meeting at U.N. world headquarters in New York -- the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the council failed to reach agreement on a text for a U.S. draft resolution on Iraq. Ambassadors from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States left their closed-door session adjacent to the formal council chamber tight-lipped, refusing questions from reporters.

It had been hoped, diplomatic sources said, that should Washington gain support from the other members of the veto-wielding five, the text would be distributed among the other 10 members of the council.

The French have threatened to use their veto against any single resolution that would authorize military force against Baghdad for refusing to live up to agreements made after the Gulf War. They want the consequences for Iraq discussed in a second resolution, if and when Saddam tries to prevent inspectors doing their job.

Russia and China, two other permanent members of the Security Council, have also voiced opposition to any new resolution authorizing the use of force.

The United States and Britain are the remaining two veto-casting members of the council.

Speaking to the Public Broadcasting Service Monday evening, Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that there were differences of opinion among U.S. allies.

"The debate we're having with some of our Security Council colleagues is whether those consequences (for Iraq) should be indicated or spelled out in this first resolution, or whether there should be a second resolution," he said.

The White House, however, has made it clear President George W. Bush continues to seek a single U.N. resolution -- thereby avoiding having to return to the Security Council at a later date to seek a further mandate.

"What I won't accept is something that allows Saddam Hussein to continue to lie, to cheat the world, Bush said Tuesday. "He's been doing that for 11 years.

"I'm not going to accept something that is weak. It's not worth it. The United Nations has to show its backbone. ... I'm not going to accept the status quo."

Officials have said that the United States will propose a resolution that would authorize military force if Iraq should again interfere with weapons inspections or delay disarmament.

In Congress, Bush is also seeking a resolution authorizing military force. Although the White House argues that U.S. law does not compel Bush to seek such a document, having one would send a powerful message of U.S. unity and that Washington is serious in challenging the Iraqi dictator.

"We'll be speaking with one voice here in the country, and that is going to be important for the United Nations to hear that voice and it will be important for the world to hear that voice..." Bush said.

On Monday State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman returned to Washington from Paris and Moscow after lobbying for the single resolution scenario in his talks in both capitals.

(Bill Reilly contributed to this story from the United Nations)

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