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S P E C I A L: The Standoff with Iraq

Richardson, Aziz continue war of words

Tariq Aziz November 13, 1997
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EST (0445 GMT)

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson and Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz said Thursday night they would like to resolve their differences diplomatically, but sounded anything but conciliatory.

Appearing separately on CNN's "Larry King Live," the two did little to lower the decibel level in an international debate that is becoming increasingly shrill.

Aziz said his country was willing to negotiate with any international body that was not dominated by Americans, but that it had been put in a position where it had "no hope." He said Iraq had "no other option" than to expel American weapons inspectors and fire on U-2 surveillance planes.

Tariq Aziz, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, and Bill Richardson, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, talk to Larry King
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"The American military is planning an attack on Iraq," he said. "If another country is planning attack on you and sends a spy plane ... and uses it to update information (about the Iraqi military) and have precise targets, we cannot tolerate this."

Aziz also claimed that he was not given an opportunity by the U.N. Security Council to explain Iraq's side of the story before the council condemned Iraq and imposed a travel ban on Iraqi officials.

Aziz says U.S. profits from Saudi oil

The Security Council took the action in retaliation for Iraq's decision to expel American members of its weapons inspection teams in Iraq. Iraq announced it would expel the inspectors October 29, but did not enforce it until Thursday.

Aziz also said that the United States does not want arms inspectors to certify that Iraq has eliminated all its weapons of mass destruction because it is getting a share of Saudi Arabia's oil profits.

Tariq Aziz, Deputy Foreign Minister of Iraq
"A whole nation has been put in prison..."
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Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
"I believe they [Iraq] want..."
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He claimed Saudi Arabian oil output has increased by 3 million barrels a day since the Gulf War. His own country, meanwhile, is prevented by U.N. sanctions from selling its oil except in exchange for food and medical supplies.

Richardson, the ambassador to the United Nations, dismissed Aziz's rhetoric as "pure propaganda" and said the charge that the United States was profiting from Saudi oil sales is "totally hogwash."

He said that while Aziz appears to be a reasonable man, he is one of Iraq's hard-liners devoted to policies that have made the country "a very bad neighbor." He stressed repeatedly that Iraq's quarrel is with the United Nations, not the United States.

Iraq behavior 'reprehensible'

Asked what he thought the Iraqis were trying to accomplish, he said, "They want to drum up support in the Arab world, and they're trying to split the Gulf War coalition, and they're not succeeding. They're driving everyone away from them.

"The facts are, this is a country that has demonstrated reprehensible international behavior."

He said that chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler had a list of "hundreds" of weapons violations that Iraq has been guilty of in the past few years.

Inspectors are still finding nerve gas and other biological weapons, he said. And not only were inspectors prevented from entering some weapons sites, but on occasions armed Iraqis have refused to let U.N. helicopters take off.

Richardson said the United States would like to resolve the crisis diplomatically, but that he is "pessimistic." Calling Iraq "a threat to their neighbors," he said, "I'm not anxious to saber-rattle, but we want the Persian Gulf to be secure."

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