Iraq doesn't budge on U.S. inspectors
United States may push for new sanctions
November 7, 1997
Web posted at: 10:14 p.m. EST (0314 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three envoys dispatched by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan ended their emergency diplomatic mission and left Baghdad Friday -- with no signs that Iraq would back down from its demand that Americans be removed from U.N. weapon inspection teams.
Meanwhile, in Washington, top U.S. military and diplomatic officials met at the White House to discuss what actions the United States might take to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to relent.
U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen later told CNN that the United States wanted to "lower the rhetoric" and would continue trying to work through the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council for a resolution. 344K/16 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
But he made it clear that the U.S. position is that Iraq must back down from its insistence on barring American inspectors, who are part of U.N. teams looking for evidence of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and missiles inside Iraq. 853K/39 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
"What we need to have is the Security Council to stand very firm, to send a very strong signal to Saddam that he must comply," said Cohen, who indicated that the United States would push Monday in the Security Council for new travel and economic sanctions against Iraq.
When asked if the United States might take unilateral action if the United Nations didn't take as firm a stand as the Americans would like, Cohen said, "I don't think we ought to speculate."
Threatening flights 'big mistake'
On Friday Iraq renewed its warning that it will not tolerate flights by a U.S. spy plane over Iraqi territory, flights which are scheduled to occur on Monday. If Iraq were to fire on the plane, a senior Pentagon official said the United Nations would have no choice but to view that as an "act of war."
Cohen refused to say whether the United States would respond militarily if there were an attack, saying only that "it would be a very big mistake for Saddam Hussein to threaten in any way the U-2 flights."
President Clinton said on Friday he had no reason to hope that Iraq would give ground to end the stalemate. "No, I don't," he told reporters at the White House.
The U-2 planes are on flights for the United Nations to look for possible outlawed weapons in Iraq.
Asked if the United Nations should respond to Iraq's defiance with a military strike, Clinton gave a noncommittal answer. "It would be a mistake to rule in or out any particular course of action at this moment," he said.
The Clinton administration and U.N. officials said they were waiting to receive a report from the secretary-general's envoys before making any decision on how to proceed against Iraq. The U.N. diplomatic team is due to brief U.N. officials on Monday.
Annan said Thursday that if Iraq did not revoke the order barring inspectors, he would have "no choice" but to turn the matter over to Security Council members.
On Friday, for the fifth consecutive day, weapons inspections were canceled after inspection teams were told Americans would not be admitted to Iraqi facilities.
Aziz to make Iraq's U.N. plea in person
|Aziz: Iraq is not seeking a crisis
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|Aziz renews threat to shoot down surveillance planes
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In a press conference, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz insisted that Iraq has lived up to its obligations and is entitled to a lifting of the sanctions imposed on the country in the wake of the Persian Gulf War.
"No matter what their position is, as I explained, Iraq has done its commitments," he said. "We are entitled to lifting the sanctions. The present situation doesn't lead us to that."
Aziz said Iraq's quarrel is with the United States, not the United Nations. He claimed that the United States was using the weapons inspections as a cover for espionage and intentionally delaying the lifting of sanctions against Iraq in an attempt to oust Saddam.
"We have been in a situation since 1991 that the adversary is the judge. The American government says openly, clearly, that it's not going to endorse lifting the sanctions on Iraq unless the leadership of Iraq is changed," Aziz said.
American inspectors "cannot be satisfied unless the White House and the State Department and the Pentagon and the CIA tell them, 'be satisfied,' and that is not going to happen ... as long as Iraq refuses the instructions of the American government and acts as a sovereign nation," Aziz said.
Aziz complained that nearly half of the inspectors on the U.N. mission, and virtually all of its leaders, are Americans or Britons, and that Russian and French inspectors are rare. He claimed the inspection program "has been an American organ rather than an international organ."
Aziz said he intends to go to New York to present his country's case before the full U.N. Security Council Monday. State Department sources said on Friday that he will be granted a visa.
Aziz said he wants to address the Security Council in person to present what he called "concerns and grievances" over the state of sanctions the conduct of inspections.
Correspondents Brent Sadler, Eileen O'Connor, Judy Woodruff and John King contributed to this report.