- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

NEW YORK Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright yesterday criticized the Iraqi leadership for refusing to cooperate with U.N. officials, but ruled out military strikes to force compliance with U.N. resolutions.

Iraq has refused to issue visas or meet with officials of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic), which is to investigate Baghdad's efforts to build or stockpile weapons of mass destruction.

"No," she said, when asked by reporters whether military force would be used to make Iraq comply. "We have said that they have a way of getting out of the sanctions box by letting Unmovic back in."

Crippling U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 will not be lifted until weapons inspectors certify that Baghdad no longer has the capability to make or use proscribed chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, according to U.N. resolutions.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has said he will not let in the new arms inspection team, led by former Swedish Foreign Minister Hans Blix, arguing that Iraq has already destroyed its banned weapons of mass destruction.

Mrs. Albright, who was in New York to address the annual opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, said: "The key here is Doctor Blix and Unmovic and he has said he is ready to go in. It's a little bit like Alice in Wonderland. The key's on the table. All [Saddam] has to do is pick it up."

Mrs. Albright's remarks came one day after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan lamented that Baghdad had twice refused to allow independent U.N.-appointed experts to evaluate Iraq's humanitarian situation.

"In discussions with the United Nations, the government of Iraq has indicated that it does not intend to cooperate with or issue visas to such experts," he wrote in a report to the Security Council earlier this week.

The evaluation was requested by the Security Council at the urging of France and Russia, two of Iraq's strongest allies inside the organization.

The United States has said that as long as Saddam refuses to let the weapons inspectors in, sanctions will stay in place.

It has, however, threatened military action against Iraq if it tries to rebuild weapons of mass destruction, attacks the Kurdish population in the north or threatens its neighbors.

The United States and Britain bombed Iraq in December 1998, saying Saddam was obstructing the work of the inspectors, who left the country. No inspections have taken place since.

In an interview with The Washington Times on Monday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said Baghdad would not cooperate with inspectors until the sanctions had been lifted, and allied forces ceased patrolling no-fly zones in the country's north and south.

"We are not discussing the last resolution of Unmovic," he said yesterday. "We are discussing oil-for-food and difficulties with the program."

As the standoff grinds on, Iraq has been selling increasingly valuable oil through the U.N. oil-for-food program, which allows the government to export billions of dollars worth of crude and refined oil every six months to purchase approved humanitarian goods.

The Baghdad-based coordinator of the program, Tun Myet, told reporters yesterday that Iraq could generate $10 billion for food, medicines and repairs if oil prices held to their nearly 10-year highs.

About two-thirds of that money is spent by the Iraqis on purchases approved by an international panel in New York. That panel has held up nearly $1.5 billion worth of contracts, saying that the materials or services could be used to assist proscribed weapons activities. Most of those holds have been placed by the Americans, according to U.N. officials and other diplomats.

But Mrs. Albright yesterday rejected criticisms from Baghdad and sympathetic parties.

"It is not the international community that is keeping the Iraqi children and people from eating… . The villain is Saddam Hussein," she said.

Mrs. Albright was one of the only speakers to broach the subject during yesterday's opening debate of the General Assembly, which was overshadowed by last week's Millennium Summit of presidents and prime ministers.

In her final speech in the Assembly chambers, Mrs. Albright said the Iraqi regime's strategy "is to ignore it's U.N. Charter obligations, and seek to preserve at all costs its capacity to produce the deadliest weapons humanity has ever known."

France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, did not mention Iraq yesterday, nor did Mr. Annan in his opening remarks.

Representatives of 183 nations will address the Assembly over the next two weeks, all but seven of them foreign ministers.

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