Diplomacy Option Is Ebbing Away as Arabs Warn US

The Birmingham Post (England), February 10, 1998 | Go to article overview

Diplomacy Option Is Ebbing Away as Arabs Warn US


The United States said yesterday the chances of a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iraq were declining.

US Defence Secretary William Cohen said on a visit to Kuwait that diplomacy must be given every chance to succeed. But he added: "The window of opportunity is not getting wider, it is getting narrower."

Arab leaders criticised US threats of a military strike to force Baghdad into submission.

Jordan and Tunisia urged a peaceful settlement, and the Arab League said the world community must not show double standards in its treatment of Baghdad. Egypt said Iraq's position was shifting, and diplomacy must be given time to succeed.

Iraq said it was confident of victory if fighting broke out, and sent its foreign minister to Syria and Egypt on a tour to rally Arab support.

The United States and Britain have trained more military firepower on Iraq than at any time since the 1991 Gulf War. Eight British Tornado bombers were on their way from Germany to Kuwait on Monday.

Washington and London are threatening to attack Iraq unless it grants full access to UN arms inspectors charged with finding and destroying its suspected weapons of mass destruction.

Britain declared last week that Iraq might still possess the chemicals to make enough VX nerve gas to wipe out mankind. Baghdad denies possessing nuclear, chemical or biological arms.

Despite exhaustive US and British diplomacy, Arab countries that joined the 1991 Gulf War coalition to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait have voiced reservations or outright opposition to military strikes this time. Only Kuwait has voiced clear support.

Saudi Arabia's defence minister was quoted on Sunday as saying the kingdom, which provided a springboard for the 1991 offensive against Iraq, opposed a strike against Baghdad now.

Saudi King Fahd and Cohen, in a statement after late-night talks, said the two allies continued to hope the crisis would be resolved by diplomatic means.

"But if Saddam Hussein refuses to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions, he alone will be responsible for the consequences of his actions," they said. …

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Diplomacy Option Is Ebbing Away as Arabs Warn US
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