U.S. inspectors leave Baghdad
November 13, 1997
Web posted at: 7:02 p.m. EST (0002 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Six U.S. members of the United Nations weapons inspection team -- expelled by the Iraqi government -- left Baghdad late Thursday night bound by automobile for the Jordanian border.
Iraqi television showed U.N. cars pulling away from the Canal Hotel, where the inspectors had been staying, shortly after 11 p.m. for the seven-hour drive.
In response, the U.N. has ordered the remaining 68 international inspectors out of the country. They will fly out Friday.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler said he asked Iraq to allow the Americans to leave with the other inspectors, but Iraq refused.
Butler ordered the entire U.N. inspection team to leave, saying he would not accept "segregation" of the American inspectors from those of other nationalities on UNSCOM.
A L S O :
Draft Statement by the United Nations
He also said that flights by U-2 surveillance planes, which Iraq has threatened to shoot down, would continue.
The six Americans -- three arms experts and three technicians -- left after a joint meeting of the Iraqi
Revolutionary Command Council and the ruling Baath Party Command reaffirmed the October 29 expulsion.
U.S. warns of 'grave consequences'
|U.S.ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson
predicts "serious consequences"
|Chief weapons inspector Richard
Butler "..every day lost makes the
In Washington, President Clinton called the decision "clearly unacceptable and a challenge to the
international community," adding: "I intend to pursue this
matter in a very determined way."
The decision brought a warning from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, that the Iraqi move was unacceptable and would have "grave consequences."
Richardson called a closed session of the 15-body Security Council late Thursday afternoon to decide what action, if any, to take next.
He said Iraq was violating the U.N. Charter and called the
moves to expel the Americans "an outrageous and irresponsible action on part of the Iraqis" that was in open defiance of the Security Council.
In Paris, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Iraqi expulsion was "unacceptable," while British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called the move an "act of obstruction."
Americans turned back for 10th time
The crisis has been building since October 29 when the Iraqi government first announced that it planned to expel American members of UNSCOM.
Baghdad decided to enforce the expulsions one day after the 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.
Earlier Thursday, prior to the expulsion announcement, Iraq turned back American inspectors from suspected weapons sites for the 10th time in 11 days.
Iraq has said it would allow non-American inspectors to visit suspected weapons sites but Butler has refused to allow any of his personnel to carry out their mission unless all are included.
Speaking to reporters at the U.N. on Friday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz called Butler's move "unacceptable" and said the arms inspection leader "will bear responsibility" for what follows if all inspectors are withdrawn.
When told of the Aziz criticism, Butler replied: "I grow a little tired of swapping who is at fault. If he's implying that I am responsible for what happened on October 29, that's plainly wrong."
"Every day that has passed since the 29th of October ... has harmed our monitoring effort," he said. "Every day lost makes the circumstances worse ... and when we leave tomorrow (Friday) those problems will simply grow."
Americans forced to drive out
Iraq has been under punishing trade and air sanctions since
it invaded Kuwait in August 1990. A clean bill of health from Butler is necessary before embargoes on exports, such as oil, can be lifted.
UNSCOM thinks Iraq wants to maintain its ability to make
biological and chemical warfare agents, although it has
cooperated with the commission in destroying its Scud ballistic missiles.
The travel ban imposed by the U.N. Wednesday prevents Iraqis from flying out of Baghdad, which means they must travel by road to Jordan. Iraq apparently decided to give the Americans a taste of their own medicine by forcing the U.S. inspectors to travel that same highway.
Aziz called again for a dialogue with the Security Council, but it has refused to meet formally with him until the expulsion order is withdrawn.
'It is a problem that is solvable'
Aziz did meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday, a day before he leaves New York for Paris and the Mideast.
"It is a problem that is solvable," Annan said later. "They (Iraq) had a chance to do it and missed it. But I hope that they are serious about solving it through diplomatic means, that they will make the right gestures."
Asked whether he thought Aziz's visit to New York was a
failure, Annan said, "Obviously if he came in the expectation that he will leave this issue behind us, then it has not succeeded."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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