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U.S.: Warhead discovery 'troubling and serious'

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

A spokesman said that President Bush
A spokesman said that President Bush "has yet to see proof Saddam Hussein is disarming."

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Iraq's director of monitoring claims the empty chemical warheads are leftover from 1996 U.N. inspections. CNN's Rym Brahimi reports. (January 16)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House said Friday that President Bush found it "troubling and serious" that U.N. inspectors found warheads designed to deliver chemical weapons inside Iraq.

"It is prohibited for Iraq to possess chemical warheads," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters the day after the discovery. (Full story)

A team of U.N. arms inspectors found 11 empty chemical warheads Thursday at an ammunition storage area south of Baghdad. A 12th warhead is being evaluated, and all have been described as being in "excellent condition."

Noting that a senior Iraqi official said Iraq forgot it had the warheads, Fleischer said the United States wondered "what other mental lapses they are having."

"Iraq possesses weapons they said they were not in possession of," Fleischer said, raising again White House questions about Iraq's cooperation and honesty.

Fleischer said the warheads were not declared in Iraq's report to the United Nations that Baghdad insisted was a full and accurate accounting of its weapons programs.

"The fact that Iraq is in possession of undeclared chemical warheads, which the United Nations says are in excellent condition, is troubling and serious," he said. "Under the U.N. resolution, Saddam has an obligation to disarm. It has become increasingly clear that he is not doing so."

U.N. inspectors said they were trying to determine whether the warheads were declared in a December 7 Iraqi document that was supposed to list all weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, chemical or biological -- and weapons programs -- past or present.

start quoteIraq possesses weapons they said they were not in possession of.end quote
-- White House spokesman Ari Fleischer

Asked if the United States viewed the discovery as a "material breach" of Iraq's commitment to the United Nations, Fleischer said the United States already considered Iraq to be in material breach. He said the discovery proved that Saddam has not met the international community's demand to disarm.

The White House also dismissed Friday's defiant warning by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that any U.S.-led attack on Iraq would be suicidal. (Full story)

"We are much less interested in Saddam Hussein talking and much more interested in Saddam Hussein disarming," Fleischer said. "The president has yet to see proof Saddam Hussein is disarming."

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