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Truth or Consequences Time for Iraq

Sunday, 10 November 2002 12:00 AM

The message, a mantra from the administration since President George W. Bush went to the General Assembly in September and challenged the international body to stay relevant to international security, was carried to the airwaves Sunday in separate television appearances by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"We have to have a zero-tolerance view of the Iraqi regime at this time," Rice said on Fox News Sunday. "This is a regime with a very long history now of deception and deceit, and we don't need to waste the world's time waiting around to let them prove over and over again that they don't intend to cooperate.

"This president has been deadly serious about the intention and insistence that Iraq will face serious consequences should they not comply again. And I think you're seeing that the world believes it."

The unanimous vote by the 15-member body - including the Arab state of Syria - came Friday following a seven-week effort by the administration and its diplomats overcome objections by France, China and Russia, who have veto power on the council.

In the end, the administration, which employed presidential telephone calls to world leaders as well as diplomatic finessing - eventually led to a document that met the concerns of the three, but also gave the president the strong resolution threat of "serious consequences" he demanded.

The three permanent members objected to what they called "automaticity" in an original draft resolution, wording that implied an automatic military response for lack of full compliance.

"What automaticity means in this case is that we have agreed to come back to the U.N. Security Council for a meeting, for a discussion of the circumstances and for a discussion that the Security Council may wish to decide what it wants to," Rice said.

"But there are two important facts. The president has made it clear that he reserves the right to act on behalf of the interest and the security of the American people, and indeed world security, should there not be a decision to take force there.

"And secondly, this is a discussion not about whether there has been a material breach (of resolution provisions). This is a discussion of serious consequences following a material breach, because there is a material breach the next time Saddam Hussein violates his obligations."

"Material breach" is a key phrase in the resolution and could be used to justify military action. The administration did not want wording that would open the door for the Security Council to debate whether any particular act of defiance, deceit or delay by Iraq was serious enough to constitute a material breach, bringing about "serious consequences." Under the adopted resolution, any defiance, deceit or delay is automatically judged to be so.

Added Powell:

"If he doesn't comply this time, we are going to ask the U.N. to give authorization for all necessary means. If the U.N. isn't willing to do that, the United States, with like-minded nations, will go and disarm him forcefully. And the president has made this clear.

"We're not going to wait until February (when inspectors will present a report to the Security Council) to see whether Iraq is cooperating or not. If Iraq is not cooperating Dr. Blix and Mr. El Baradei (U.N. inspections chief Hans Blix and Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed El Baradei) will discover that rather quickly. And the United States and the United Nations will be able to make a judgment as to cooperation very quickly, not sometime in February."

The United States and Britain have repeatedly accused the Iraqi regime of possessing chemical and biological weapons, the so-called weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was supposed to have divested itself of WMD stocks after the 1991 Gulf War, but U.N. weapons inspectors who were to verify Iraq's compliance left in 1998 amid Iraqi obstruction.

Iraq originally denied having any such weapons, but later admitted to having had them. It claimed it destroyed the stocks, but true verification was never obtained.

The administration also says Iraq is trying to obtain a nuclear weapons capability, further threatening world peace and U.S. national security.

Under the new resolution - the 17th since the end of the Gulf War - Saddam has until next Friday to acknowledge the resolution. By Dec. 8 it must detail its weapons programs - what exist and what have been ended - and WMD stocks. By Dec. 23 at the latest, international inspectors should be in Iraq and conducting their operations, searching any and all sites of interest to them without hindrance.

"The calendar that is laid out here is one to test not whether (inspectors) can go around the country and hunt and peck and find something, but whether this time Saddam Hussein intends to cooperate," Rice said.

"He has to lead the inspectors to facilities. He has to provide access to people who know what's going on in these programs."

The television appearances coincided with news reports saying the United States planned a lightening strike into Iraq by armored forces after a brief, but highly intense aerial bombing campaign, if war should come about.

The reports quoted unidentified administration sources, and were the latest in a number of purported plans leaked to the media.

"The president has made no secret of the fact that he intends to use force if the Iraqis cannot be brought into compliance in other ways," Rice said on Fox News Sunday. "And so, it wouldn't surprise anybody that he is assessing the military options before him.

"But anybody who would be able to actually tell you what's in a military plan, of course, is not going to go out and talk about it."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The message, a mantra from the administration since President George W. Bush went to the General Assembly in September and challenged the international body to stay relevant to international security, was carried to the airwaves Sunday in separate television appearances by...
Sunday, 10 November 2002 12:00 AM
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