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

Clinton demands total access for U.N. arms inspectors

Clinton

Source: Annan expected to make Baghdad trip

February 17, 1998
Web posted at: 2:38 p.m. EST (1938 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President Clinton said Tuesday that Washington still favors a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis, but stressed that any solution must include free and unfettered access for U.N. weapons inspectors.

"A diplomatic solution must include, or meet, a clear, immutable, reasonable, simple standard: Iraq must agree -- and soon -- to free, full, unfettered access to these (inspection) sites anywhere in the country," Clinton said.

Clinton spoke at the Pentagon, after military leaders briefed him on preparations for possible strikes. Accompanying him were Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton.

vxtreme President Clinton gives an update on Iraq

The president urged Americans to be ready for a possible attack on Iraq, and he warned that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had used biological weapons against his own people -- and would likely use the weapons again unless he were prevented from doing so.

Hussein, said the president, "threatens the security of all the rest of us."

Sound clips from Clinton's speech

"Iraq must agree..."
icon 352K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"Saddam Hussein could end this crisis..."
icon 249K/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"Force can never be the final answer..."
icon 713K/33 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"...and Saddam Hussein agreed..."
icon 353K/32 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"...debilitating conditions on the inspectors..."
icon 148K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"...Iraqi agents have undermined and undercut UNSCOM"
icon 253K/23 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Clinton said Hussein and the Iraqi leadership had repeatedly lied to the United Nations about the country's weaponry.

"It is obvious that there is an attempt here based on the whole history of this (weapons inspections) operation since 1991 to protect whatever remains of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, the missiles to deliver them and the feedstock necessary to produce them," Clinton said.

The president said that after the Gulf War ended in 1991, Iraq admitted having a massive offensive biological warfare capability, including:

  • 5,000 gallons of Botulinum (causing Botulism)
  • 2,000 gallons of Anthrax
  • 25 biological-filled Scud warheads
  • 157 aerial bombs

Clinton said Iraq still posed a threat to the national security of the United States and the "freedom-loving world."

'He ... will be to blame for the consequences'

He accused Iraq of trying to thwart U.N. inspections by reinterpreting the meaning of Gulf War resolutions as to which sites can be inspected, for how long and by which inspectors.

Clinton, who has ordered military forces to the gulf region in case a military strike is needed, warned Hussein not to continue to delay or oppose the U.N. demands on weapons inspections: "He, and he alone, will be to blame for the consequences."

The president said the U.S. had the military means to achieve the objective and secure the "vital strategic interests" of the United States in the Gulf region.

"A military operation cannot destroy all the weapons of mass destruction capacity. But it can, and will, leave him (Hussein) significantly worse off than he is now, in terms of the ability to threaten the world with these weapons or to attack his neighbors," Clinton said.

"Force can never be the first answer," he emphasized, "but sometimes it's the only answer."

Annan trip to Baghdad expected

Iraq, meantime, pledged to make "all serious and legitimate" efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis.

A statement issued by Hussein's Revolutionary Command Council said Iraq hopes U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will "come here with an open mind and free will" to conduct talks.

Annan, who planned to consult later Tuesday with the five permanent members of the Security Council, is expected to travel to Baghdad later in the week, diplomatic sources told CNN. They said Annan would be carrying a document clearly specifying "red lines beyond which Annan cannot go" in talks with Iraqi officials.

The document is described by one source as "tactical advice" from the council's permanent members to Annan. Under it, Annan could offer Hussein the prospect of modifying the inspection system for strictly residential buildings within Iraq's so-called "presidential" sites, and perhaps to leave some strictly residential buildings uninspected.

Reacting to Clinton's speech, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz denounced the threat of military action.

"The United States doesn't have authorization by the Security Council to attack Iraq by military means," he told CNN in a telephone interview from Baghdad.

Washington insists U.N. resolutions in effect since the Gulf War provide all the authorization needed for an attack.

Aziz also rejected the U.S. assertion that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are a threat to neighboring countries.

"Among all our neighbors, only Kuwait has joined the American plan to attack Iraq," he said. "So if all our neighbors are really threatened by us, why didn't they join the (U.S.-led) coalition."


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