UN in disarray over Iraqi arms offer, US calls weapons inspectors 'irrelevant'

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
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  • Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2002 20:36:54 +0100

· Security council in disarray 
· Washington dismisses 'tactical step' 
· Russia welcomes Baghdad move 

Mark Oliver 
Tuesday September 17, 2002 

The Bush administration today underscored its scepticism over Iraq's
offer last night to readmit weapons inspectors "without constraint" and
urged the United Nations to keep President Saddam Hussein under

However, the UN security council was thrown into disarray as Russia and
China, who hold veto power, welcomed Iraq's move, which its deputy prime
minister, Tariq Aziz, said now removed any legitimacy from US-led

But that was far from the mood in the White House where a senior
official told Reuters anonymously: "Clearly events show that Saddam
Hussein responds to maximum pressure. Now is not the time to release any
of that pressure, internationally or within the [US] Congress." 

Washington has called the move by Iraq, made in a letter to the UN
secretary general, Kofi Annan, yesterday, a "tactical step" intended to
prevent "strong UN security council action". 

The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, today echoed White House demands that
a new security council resolution be drawn up and put to Iraq, while
warning that there was "bound to be a high degree of scepticism" about
Baghdad's new promise and that Saddam had been "playing games for over
12 years". 

However, Baghdad's apparent volte-face was cautiously welcomed by many
around the world today. 

The Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, said: "Thanks to our joint
efforts, we managed to avert the threat of a war scenario and go back to
political means of solving the Iraqi problem." 

France, the other permanent member on the security council alongside the
US, Britain, Russia and China, said Saddam must be "held to his word".
However, France supports diplomatic pressure rather than the White
House's policy of seeking "regime change" in Iraq. 

Iraq says sole US objective is oil 

Mr Aziz said today that Washington's sole goal was to dominate oil in
the Persian Gulf region. "The issue does not end with Iraq's acceptance
of the return of the inspectors," Mr Aziz said. "The aim of the American
policies is the oil." 

Mr Aziz said weapons inspectors should finish their work "within a
reasonable time" to bring the lifting of sanctions and that the United
States may still be looking for a reason to attack Iraq. He called on Mr
Annan to monitor inspectors closely to ensure they do not overstep their

"If the inspectors come and act honestly, professionally . . . they can
reach the truth within a reasonable time. But if the Americans are using
this as a pretext, they might use some other way in order to commit an
aggression against Iraq." 

Arab states welcome Iraqi move 

Arab states who helped lead the campaign to get Iraq to accept arms
inspectors said the apparent retreat could save the region from
conflagration, while Iran urged Baghdad to keep its pledge. 

Mr Annan said the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa
Moussa, and Arab League members had played a key role in events. 

Mr Annan credited the US president, George Bush, with helping to bring
about Iraq's decision. "I believe the president's speech galvanized the
international community," he said. 

Iraq's letter, signed by the Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri, and
delivered to Mr Annan late yesterday, said: "I am pleased to inform you
of the decision of the government of the Republic of Iraq to allow the
return of the United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq without

It said Iraq was ready to start "immediate discussions" on the practical
arrangements for the return of the inspectors. 

Mr Annan forwarded the letter to the security council and to the chief
weapons inspector, Hans Blix. 

Inspections could begin within weeks 

Mr Blix has said he could have inspectors on the ground within days but
it would take his teams several weeks before they could begin monitoring
Iraqi sites. 

In a statement, Mr Blix welcomed the Iraqi offer and said he was ready
for immediate talks with the Iraqis "on the practical arrangements for
the resumption of inspections". 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an international
inspectorate and the main global cooperative body on nuclear issues,
said it was ready to resume arms searches in Iraq "tomorrow", Reuters

The IAEA, based in Vienna, has been working with UN weapons inspectors,
and was recently called on by the US to look at surveillance pictures of
a site in Iraq with suspected nuclear dimensions. 

UN weapons inspectors were put in place after the Gulf war under
resolutions which tied Iraq's disarmament to the lifting of UN

However, the inspectors left Baghdad in December 1998, amid Iraqi
allegations that some inspectors were spying for the United States and
countercharges that Iraq was not cooperating with the teams. Since then,
Baghdad had said it would let inspectors back in only for a limited time
and if the security council lifted the sanctions. 

But with pressure mounting four days after the US president, George
Bush, told the UN general assembly that the United States was no longer
willing to tolerate Iraqi violations, the oil-rich nation changed

Galloway says there will be sour faces in Washington 

George Galloway, the Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin, an outspoken opponent
of military action against Iraq, who is visiting Baghdad, hailed the
offer as an "important development" that should be "grabbed with both

He said most people would agree with the Russian response of welcoming
Baghdad's offer. 

Mr Galloway, who was today holding talks with Mr Aziz, said: "Iraq was
always saying that in principle it was ready to accept weapons
inspection. All it really needed was the word that it wasn't going to be
invaded if it did." 

He said it might save "perhaps tens of thousands of young and old lives
being unnecessarily lost and the region plunged into chaos". 

He added: "They [the Americans] are very afraid that their fox might
have been shot. They were counting on a refusal. They've now got an
acceptance, and I think that there must be a few sour faces in the White
House planning rooms." 

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell cautiously
welcomed the news but warned that Iraq had to be judged on what it did,
not what it said. 

"The inspectors must have the unconditional ability to poke into every
nook and cranny," he said. "Saddam Hussein has conducted brinkmanship
too often in the past for this development to be treated with anything
other than caution." 

The move from Baghdad also follows a change in British public opposition
to possible military action in Iraq, according to a poll published

There is no longer a majority opposing an attack to remove Saddam, the
Guardian/ICM poll showed. 

Source:  The Guardian

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