Iraq turns up heat, expels U.S. arms inspectors
U.S. ambassador to U.N. warns of 'grave consequences'
November 13, 1997
Web posted at: 9:19 a.m. EST (1419 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- President Clinton was meeting with his national security advisers at the White House to plan the U.S. response after Iraq ordered all American weapons inspectors in the country to leave immediately.
The order was given Thursday by the Revolutionary Command Council headed by President Saddam Hussein. Clinton would hear options presented by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen and others, an administration official said.
Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, predicted "grave consequences."
"This action is clearly unacceptable, singling out Americans that are technicians, that are scientists. Iraq is pushing this issue to the brink," he said in an interview. Richardson previously has said the United States has the right to attack Iraq if it carried out an expulsion order.
It was not immediately clear if the six Americans -- five inspectors and a support staffer -- would obey the order or be forced to leave. Their departure could come on Friday morning at the earliest because night had fallen in Iraq and U.N. flights out of the country only take place during daylight hours.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the expulsion order for Americans surprised him. He said he would discuss with his advisers whether to pull out all U.N. inspectors.
The U.N. official in charge of weapons inspections in Iraq said that was a possibility. "We will have to give consideration to that" to ensure their safety, said Richard Butler. ( 204K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"The Americans aren't to be separated out in the way Iraq has tried to do," he added.
Iraq says it will accept non-American inspectors and continue cooperating with the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM), which performs weapons inspections and surveillance of Iraq's disarmament efforts.
Prior to Thursday's expulsion announcement, Iraq turned back Americans from suspected weapons sites. Non-American inspectors also stayed away as a result. It was the 10th time in 11 days this has happened.
The crisis has been building since October 29 when the Iraqi government first announced that it planned to expel American members of UNSCOM.
The inspectors are in Iraq to ensure that Saddam's regime is complying with U.N. resolutions to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Unless that happens, the United Nations will not lift economic sanctions imposed on the country following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Baghdad has charged the inspectors are spies sent by the United States, which Iraq accuses of being opposed to lifting sanctions.
The expulsion order came a day after the 15-member U.N. Security Council, by a unanimous vote, condemned Iraq, imposed a travel ban on Iraqi officials and warned of "further measures" if it did not reverse its decision to kick out the Americans.
Iraq had said it would expel the Americans inspectors if the Security Council condemned it for blocking the inspections.
The order, announced by the Iraqi News Agency (INA), said: "All American inspectors should leave Iraq immediately until the American administration and the Security Council decide to review their irresponsible policy and their dealing with Iraq."
Thousands of Iraqis marched in the streets of the capital on Thursday, shouting slogans in support of the Iraqi leader. Hundreds more gathered around his main palace.
Correspondents Wolf Blitzer, Peter Arnett, Brent Sadler and Brian Jenkins contributed to this report.