U.N. team arrives in Baghdad
Iraq denies report weapons were moved to other countries
February 15, 1998
Web posted at: 7:36 p.m. EST (0036 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A three-man team of U.N. technicians arrived in Baghdad Sunday to begin mapping eight presidential sites that the Iraqi government says would be opened temporarily for outside inspection.
The team's trip, expected to last about three days, may pave the way for a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- all part of a last-ditch effort to avoid a military strike on Iraq to force it to comply with U.N. mandates on weapons inspections.
"I hope the present crisis will be solved. That is why I am here," said team leader Steffan de Mistura of Sweden, the former U.N. coordinator of humanitarian aid to Iraq.
But even as the team arrived in Baghdad to begin its work, a top American official reiterated that the United States was prepared to use significant force if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein doesn't allow U.N. weapons inspectors unfettered access to sites they want to inspect in Iraq.
"We would hope that he would see what is coming, (that) he would see that there is a widespread view in the international community that he needs to comply," said U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger on NBC's "Meet The Press." "But if military action is necessary, it would be a serious blow.
"The purpose of the attack here, if it comes to that, is to significantly diminish his weapons of mass destruction capability and his ability to threaten his neighbors," Berger said.
Butler says diplomatic efforts 'intense'
The U.N.'s chief weapons inspector, Richard Butler, on Sunday characterized diplomatic efforts to settle the standoff with Iraq as "intense."
"People are putting their shoulders to this wheel with absolute determination," Butler said on CNN's "Late Edition." "There's a real will to try to get this solved by diplomacy."
But, he said, "I guess there aren't too many days left."
Butler also reiterated that weapons inspectors need unfettered access to all sights because, in the past, "wherever we've had access, we've found the prohibited weapons, and we've helped to get rid of them."
In Baghdad, Iraqi presidential adviser Amir al Sa-adi strongly rejected Butler's assertions that large quantities of prohibited weapons have been found as "absolute nonsense. Nothing of that happened."
Al Sa-adi also said if a military attack is launched on Iraq, it will likely destroy the monitoring systems that the U.N. inspectors have put in place to monitor the Iraqi weapons program.
"I would be concerned that a military action would actually disrupt all this and would result in losing track of what's going on," al Sa-adi said. "The military attack would practically destroy the system, which relies on communication, cameras, sensors, et cetera."
Al Sa-adi also took aim at Butler, saying the chief weapons inspector is "just acting like a U.S. or British politician, just exerting maximum pressure and provoking things and beating the drums of war."
Report: Iraq moving weapons to other countries
An aid truck is loaded with food supplies for Iraq
In Washington, a report has surfaced from an unofficial Republican-sponsored House of Representatives task force on terrorism and unconventional warfare that alleges Iraq has smuggled missiles and technology to produce weapons of mass destruction to the sympathetic Arab states of Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Algeria.
Neither U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen nor Butler could confirm the report's findings. But Butler said, "If Iraq has moved things out of the country, the logic of that is clear."
Al Sa-adi dismissed the allegations that Iraq was hiding weapons in other countries as "silly."
"There are no weapons to be hidden or sent outside Iraq," he said.
McCain: U.S. should set deadline
Also on Sunday, a senior U.S. senator called for U.S. President Bill Clinton to set a deadline for Iraq to comply with U.N. mandates or face military action.
"The president's got to set a deadline, and Saddam Hussein has to understand it," said Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, on "Fox News Sunday." "We just can't keep up this kind of ... back and forth. It continues to erode our capability."
But both Cohen and Berger said there are no plans to set such a deadline. The president, Cohen said on ABC's "This Week," "will decide if and when diplomacy has failed."
Other lawmakers appearing on Sunday news programs said any U.S.-led military action should wait until after Congress returns from its recess on February 23 and considers a resolution supporting military action.
"An attack would be an act of war," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, on "Fox News Sunday." "And only the Congress has the authority to authorize that."
"The American people have to be in on this decision through their elected representatives," said Sen. Dick Durbin,
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, said Clinton needs to explain what he will do beyond military strikes to interrupt a cycle of threats from Iraq.
"I think if we're going to show the clear commitment to take these weapons of mass destruction away from this despot, we've got to take the second step," she said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Administration to take case to public
In an effort to answer critics that the administration has done too little to explain to Americans why a military strike on Iraq is justified, Clinton will address the nation Tuesday from the Pentagon.
Berger, Cohen and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will also attend a town meeting Wednesday in Ohio, which will be carried live on CNN.
Cohen, asked to explain to Americans why their sons and daughters should be put in harm's way, showed a picture of a mother and child, Iraqi Kurds who were allegedly attacked with chemical weapons unleashed by Hussein in the 1980s.
"This is Madonna and child, Saddam Hussein-style," Cohen said.
In other developments Sunday:
King Hussien greets Arafat
- Clinton called four heads of state, trying to drum up more support for the U.S. position in dealing with Iraq. Sources tell CNN that Clinton called the leaders of Austria, Belgium, Kuwait and Bahrain and received expressions of support.
- The United States has sent an additional six F-117A stealth bombers to Kuwait from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with Jordan's King Hussein for 2 1/2 hours in Amman.
"The two sides stressed the need to make more efforts to reach a diplomatic solution that would prevent the Iraqi people -- and the region -- from the consequences of a devastating war that would undermine the security and stability of the people in the region," state-run Petra news agency said.
- Aid shipments continued to arrive in Iraq from friendly countries. On Sunday, a group called Voices in the Wilderness brought in medicine. On Saturday, a Qatar Airways plane brought 16 tons of medicine and milk for infants.
Correspondents John King and Brent Sadler and Reuters contributed to this report.