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

Chief U.N. arms inspector defends exit from Iraq

Butler November 14, 1997
Web posted at: 4:07 p.m. EST (2107 GMT)

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Chief United Nations arms inspector Richard Butler predicted Friday that U.N. arms inspection teams pulled out of Iraq would return soon, but also said Iraq could be engaging in "dangerous and illegal" activities while monitors are not in Iraq.

Six Americans were ordered out of Iraq on Thursday. In response, Butler decided to pull out all of the U.N. weapons inspectors, leaving only a skeleton crew to guard equipment.

Richard Butler takes questions from reporters at the UN on Friday afternoon
icon 7 min., 47 sec. VXtreme streaming video

Some U.N. diplomats reported that Russia, China and several other countries questioned the wisdom of allowing all the inspectors to leave at once.

They were also reported to be miffed that Butler, the chairman of the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) in charge of scrapping Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, made the decision without consulting the council.

Why U.N. council chief pulled inspectors out

Butler said in a Friday morning interview on CNN that he had decided to pull all arms inspectors out of Iraq -- instead of just U.S. inspectors -- for several reasons.

icon In Friday morning interview with CNN, Richard Butler comments on:
Whether a diplomatic solution is a possibility.
(298 K / 26 sec. audio)

Whether he is concerned what Iraq is doing with its weapons in the absence of inspectors.
(315 K / 29 sec. audio)

The inspectors' safety and inability to perform their jobs were factors, he said. But he gave as his primary reason that his commission wanted "to refuse to accept Iraq's attempt to discriminate against one nationality on our team, namely the Americans. That was wrong, illegal, and must not be allowed to stand."

The commission is concerned about what Iraq could be doing in the absence of inspections.

"Already in the last 10 days when (Iraq was) moving toward what happened in the last 24 hours, they started to impede our cameras, move our equipment, prevent our inspections from taking place," he said.

"We can't see exactly what's happening now the way we could before and so of course we are concerned that with our backs forced to be turned away in that way, activities may be taking place that are dangerous and illegal."

He said U-2 surveillance plane flights over Iraq would continue, despite Iraqi threats to shoot the planes down. A U-2 flight is reportedly planned this weekend.

More sanctions possible

Iraq announced on October 29 that Americans serving with U.N. weapons teams would have to leave the country, calling them agents of hard-line U.S. policy. It said too many Americans were in key positions in the U.N. disarmament program, and were deliberately causing friction.

Certification that Iraq has destroyed all its nuclear, chemical, biological and ballistic arms is necessary before sanctions can be lifted. They were imposed after Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait in 1990 and have had a devastating effect on Iraqis.

Because of Iraq's actions, Butler says more U.N. sanctions could be on the way.

U.N. Council condemns Iraq

The U.N. Security Council had passed a resolution shortly before midnight on Thursday strongly condemning Iraq for its decision to expel the American U.N. arms inspectors.

The statement, read at a formal council meeting, condemned "in the strongest terms" Iraq's decision to oust the American U.N. arms inspectors and demanded its "immediate and unequivocal revocation."

The council also warned of "serious consequences" but couched the threat by recalling its October 29 statement in which the same wording was used.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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