White House Wants To See Fine Print Of Iraq Deal
By John King/CNN
WASHINGTON (Feb. 23) -- The Clinton Administration has taken a wait-and-see approach toward the weapons-inspection deal reached by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraq, saying it wants to see the fine print of any agreement with Saddam Hussein before embracing it.
President Bill Clinton's reaction to the agreement is expected to come on Monday, and the president was expected to meet with his national security team some time that day.
The United States also has decided to keep its military presence in the Gulf region for the forseeable future, even if Washington approves the deal, a senior U.S. official told CNN.
"Saddam Hussein is not someone we take at his word. If this agreement is acceptable -- and that is a big 'if' -- we will be vigilant until we see actions that back up the words over a sustained period of time," the official said.
Sources also tell CNN that administration officials were working behind
the scene to take a good deal of credit for the possible diplomatic resolution to the four-month standoff. In private conversations, White House officials have made the case that only the threat of overwhelming force brought Hussein to the negotiating table.
At the same time, administration officials cautioned that they will not be in a
position to pass judgment on the deal until they have been fully briefed by Annan. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has spoken with Annan during his current Iraq mission, but U.S. officials have said those conversations have not been highly detailed because Iraq could be monitoring them.
According to sources, Annan called Albright from Iraq Sunday and told her he believed the United States would accept the agreement he negotiated. Albright passed the word on to Clinton in a telephone conversation and emphasized she still has tough questions for Annan when he returns from Baghdad.
Clinton was being briefed constantly on the situation. But no detailed reaction was expected from the White House until Albright can talk with Annan after he leaves Baghdad.
The deal brokered by Annan would allow U.N. inspectors to visit presidential sites -- without time limitations -- that Iraq had previously barred to
inspectors. The secretary-general is expected to present the deal to the Security Council Tuesday.
U.S. officials have maintained any deal would have to include unconditional, unfettered access to all suspected Iraqi weapons sites without any time limits on inspections.