Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After a UN Resolution, the 30-Day Countdown Starts ; A Little Debated Clause Calls for Iraq to Volunteer All Information about Its Weapons

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After a UN Resolution, the 30-Day Countdown Starts ; A Little Debated Clause Calls for Iraq to Volunteer All Information about Its Weapons

Article excerpt

For weeks, France and the United States have danced a diplomatic tango to define a UN resolution that could precipitate - or forestall - a war with Iraq.

One of the key sticking points has been the labeling of Iraq's disregard for weapons inspections as a "material breach" of UN authority and whether such a breach should serve as a trigger for military action.

But a likelier and more immediate trigger has been lost in the shuffle.

Once a new resolution is in place - and a US-French compromise is expected by next week - Iraq will have 30 days to provide a full, detailed declaration of whatever remains of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and weapons programs.

That would paint Baghdad into a corner, say experts: either confess everything and presumably contradict earlier past pronouncements that its hands are clean, or cheat and deceive, and run the risk that inspectors will find what's hidden.

The declaration will also make obvious to experts which choice Iraq has taken - and whether military action is needed to force Saddam Hussein's compliance.

"In some cases, we have solid evidence that they're saying isn't true," says Richard Spertzel, former head of the UN inspections team searching for biological weapons. "When things don't add up, you start asking questions. And if you start getting dumb answers, you know you got a problem."

"If Iraq doesn't make a full disclosure, then it's up to the inspectors to find what Iraq has, and that's not what they're set up to do. That literally could take years."

The call for a full, final and complete disclosure - or "FFCD's," as inspectors referred to them - is nothing new.

After Iraq's surrender ended the 1991 Gulf War, the original idea of weapons inspections was that Iraq would declare its arsenal, and the UN would verify. A benchmark was necessary, to avoid a searching- for-a-needle-in-a-haystack approach.

It was only in July 1995 that Iraq acknowledged it had a biological weapons program, once UN inspectors uncovered it. Spertzel himself says he counted five FFCD's made by Iraq during his years as an inspector, with countless more drafts proffered.

But each time some arsenal was uncovered, the Council - primarily France and Russia, leery of a confrontation with Baghdad that might have led to another war - allowed Iraq to produce a new FFCD.

Without the credible threat of force, say analysts, Iraq knew it could get away with deception.

But inspectors have not returned to Iraq for four years, and much of the world seems to have forgotten its past transgressions and intransigence, say observers. With Washington today once again ratcheting up pressure on Iraq, there is recognition that to garner international support for war, there is a need to give Iraq "one more chance" to comply and to establish a fresh body of evidence of non-compliance. …

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