Baghdad Misses 'Final Opportunity'; U.S., Britain, Spain File War Resolution

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 25, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Baghdad Misses 'Final Opportunity'; U.S., Britain, Spain File War Resolution


Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Iraq has "failed to take the final opportunity" to meet U.N. demands to disarm, the United States, Britain and Spain said yesterday in a new draft resolution to the Security Council that could prove the final diplomatic gambit before a new war in the Persian Gulf.

But France, in a counterproposal backed by fellow council members Russia and Germany, said U.N. inspection teams in Iraq should be given up to four months to continue their work, arguing that "so far, the conditions for using force against Iraq are not fulfilled."

The sharp divisions have set up a fortnight of intense backroom dealing as a U.S.-led force in the Gulf prepares for a military strike against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein that could start as early as mid-March.

President Bush, addressing a gathering of the nation's governors at the White House, said the world had reached "a moment to determine whether or not [the United Nations] is going to be relevant as the world confronts the threats of the 21st century."

But, Mr. Bush vowed, "one way or the other, Saddam Hussein, for the sake of peace and for the security of the American people, will be disarmed."

The new draft resolution sets no deadlines for Iraq to comply, but U.S. officials make it clear that Baghdad is running out of time.

"Saddam Hussein's had plenty of deadlines in his life," said National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. "It's time to deal with this problem."

In Baghdad, Saddam signaled in an interview that he planned to defy a demand by U.N. inspectors that he destroy his arsenal of dozens of al Samoud 2 missiles, a move that could bolster the Bush administration's case in the Security Council.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, speaking in New York before the closed Security Council meeting, said he had told Iraqi officials that they must begin destroying the missiles before the end of the week. Inspectors determined that the missiles' range exceeded the 93-mile maximum imposed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf war.

In an interview aired last night with CBS News anchor Dan Rather, Saddam said flatly that he would not destroy the disputed missiles and challenged Mr. Bush to a one-on-one debate.

Mr. Blix, who reports to the Security Council today and on March 7 about Iraqi cooperation, said, "We have set the date for the commencement of the destruction of these missiles and we expect that to be respected."

The new U.S.-British text lays out in stark, terse fashion the argument that Saddam stands in "material breach" of Security Council Resolution 1441, approved unanimously Nov. 8, demanding that Iraq reveal and dismantle its forbidden chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.

The new resolution omits any explicit military threats but calls on the council to act under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which makes it militarily enforceable by member nations.

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Baghdad Misses 'Final Opportunity'; U.S., Britain, Spain File War Resolution
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