Security Council to address Iraqi document dispute
Iraqi opposition vows to topple HusseinNovember 23, 1998
Web posted at: 10:04 a.m. EST (1504 GMT)
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council on Monday was to address a dispute between U.N. chief weapons inspector Richard Butler and Iraq over which disarmament documents Baghdad must hand over.
In a related development on Monday, Iraqi exile groups met in London to develop a unified political strategy and pledged to work with the United States and Britain to toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Speaking in an interview with CNN on Sunday evening, Butler said that despite the latest dispute with Iraq, it was too soon to make a judgment that the Iraqis had broken last week's agreement to unconditionally resume cooperation with weapons inspectors -- an agreement which narrowly averted airstrikes by the United States and Britain.
"Talk about their shortfall in the last few days on documents leading automatically to some kind of enforcement is a bit exaggerated. We need the whole picture," Butler said.
"We'll need to do the whole spectrum of our work. Documents are part of that," Butler said. "We also need to do our inspections, and they're off and running again. It will be a little while yet before we have the whole spectrum of our work done."
Butler says the requested documents, which include an inventory of weapons Iraq used during its war with Iran in the 1980s, are important in determining "what weapons do they have and where are they now."
Earlier Sunday in Baghdad, Iraq's foreign minister, Mohammed Said al-Sahaf, lashed out at U.N. weapons inspectors, accusing them of conducting "a savage campaign of disinformation."
"Butler is barraging Iraq with demands for imaginary documents ... and this is completely unfounded. We have handed over all -- all -- available documents," he said, adding that Iraq has turned over to U.N. inspectors more than 2 million documents related to its weapons program.
In an interview on ABC's "This Week," Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Nizar Hamdoon, said weapons inspectors were trying "to create a pretext that could be used for a military plan that has already been envisaged."
But Butler rejected the charge that weapons inspectors were making unreasonable demands.
"Their obligation is to tell the truth. Our obligation is to verify whether what they say is true or not. That's why we need the documents," he said.
Chorus in U.S. Congress for tough response
U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, speaking to reporters Sunday in South Korea where he was traveling with President Bill Clinton, said that Iraq's objections to turning over the documents were unreasonable. Berger said he hoped Iraq would respond quickly to the U.N. request for more information.
But back in Washington, in the wake of the documents flap, there was a growing chorus in Congress in favor of taking military action against Iraq and Hussein, coming from both Democrats and Republicans alike.
"I'd go after him. I know the White House isn't going to like having me say this, but I think that if Butler is able to make the case ... that there is any pattern that's in place here, I would go ahead and I would try to get folks out of there and I would bomb him," said Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, on "Fox News Sunday."
"It seems very clear to me that when the president returns home ... we better be prepared for the military strike," said Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), a senior member on the committee, on "This Week." "I would have thought that people now would agree that the failure to strike last week was a mistake."
Iraq barely averted military strikes by the United States and Britain by allowing U.N. inspectors to return to work last week. Iraq had cut off dealings with the inspectors October 31, but it rescinded that decision November 14.
Air force log, diaries requested
Shortly after the inspectors returned, Butler made fresh demands for more documents. The request sparked the latest flashpoint in the long-running dispute between Iraq and the United Nations.
The official Iraqi News Agency published the letters that Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Riyadh al-Qaisi sent to Butler in reply to his demand.
In them, al-Qaisi makes clear for the first time that an air force log sought by Butler contains an inventory of chemical ordinance the Iraqi army used between 1983 and 1988 during its war with Iran.
He told Butler that Iraq only will show his inspectors "the relevant parts" of the document, which he said was handwritten by a noncommissioned officer.
Al-Qaisi said Butler was also asking for diaries of high-ranking Iraqi army officers. He said these diaries were either destroyed or had already been given to the inspectors and were no longer in Iraq's possession.
Butler has also asked for the records of the Ministry of Defense, the Military Industrialization Commission and other government bodies, al-Qaisi said.
He gave a list of the visits the inspectors have made to these establishments, including offices of Iraq's General Intelligence and the General Directorate of Security.
"These were intrusive inspections which continued for long hours. ... This demand, coming at this particular time, is more of a provocation nature than professional," al-Qaisi said.
Al-Qaisi revealed for the first time that the orders to destroy some of Iraq's illegal weapons and some related documents were verbally given by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
Iraq's scrapping of these weapons and documents has complicated the work of U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq because they are seeking verification that the weapons were destroyed.
Despite mounting tension over the documents, the inspectors have been visiting suspected sites with no obstruction from Iraqi authorities.
They made their first surprise visit to a suspected arms-making facility Saturday. They also went into the field Sunday, but their spokeswoman, Caroline Cross, would not reveal the number of teams or places they would visit.
Correspondents Beth Fouhy, Richard Roth and Jane Arraf contributed to this report.
Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.