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Rumsfeld dismisses Annan statement

From Jamie McIntyre

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday brushed aside a prediction from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the Security Council is unlikely to find Iraq in violation of its latest resolution for continuing to fire at U.S. and British planes patrolling the no-fly zones.

"I don't know that he necessarily reflects the U.N., the center of gravity of the Security Council on any particular issue at any particular time," Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him to Washington from Chile.

"He certainly is the secretary-general and he has a voice and a role. On the other hand, until President Bush went to the U.N., the U.N. was quite happy with the way things were," Rumsfeld said.

While visiting Yugoslavia, Annan was asked if Iraq was violating U.N. Resolution 1441 by firing at coalition planes, and he replied,

"Let me say that I don't think that the council will say this is in contravention of the resolution of the Security Council," Annan said.

The resolution contains a clause that says, "Iraq shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations or the IAEA or of any Member State taking action to uphold any council resolution."

U.S. officials have said that language applies to U.S. and British planes enforcing the no-fly zones, because those zones are designed to implement previous U.N. resolutions banning Saddam Hussein from attacking his own people.

Rumsfeld stopped short of saying whether the United States would press that argument with the 15 members of the Security Council.

"I have no idea what the reaction of members of the council will be. I have been careful to say it's not for me to make those judgments. It's up to the Security Council and individual members to come to conclusions," Rumsfeld said.

But Rumsfeld put the United Nations on notice that the United States is watching not only Iraq to see if it complies with resolution 1441, but also the United Nations to see if it has the resolve to back up its disarmament demands.

"The United Nations sat there for years with 16 resolutions being violated, so just as we've seen a pattern of behavior on the part of Saddam Hussein, we've also seen a pattern of behavior on the part of the United Nations, and only time will tell what it ... will conclude," Rumsfeld said.

Iraq fired at U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zones four out of the five days following its acceptance of the disarmament resolution, according to a release from the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

In response, U.S. planes have attacked Iraqi air defense sites in both the north and the south, and Rumsfeld hinted the United States could step up its counter-attacks.

"I'm not going to talk about what we might or might not do," Rumsfeld said. "You can be absolutely certain we will not allow our aircraft to continue to be shot at with impunity. We intend to respond."

Rumsfeld again expressed doubt that Saddam would voluntarily give up his weapons of mass destruction. He noted regime change in Iraq remains the policy of the U.S. government as outlined in a law passed by Congress and signed by then President Clinton.

When asked directly if Washington still wants Saddam to go, Rumsfeld replied, "There are an awful lot of people who think, as I said, that it is so unlikely that you would get disarmament with him there, that I think the answer to you question is probably, 'Yes.' Certainly the Congress hasn't changed their policy."

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