- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

French President Jacques Chirac yesterday proposed giving Iraq another 30 days to comply with the United Nations' demands that it fully disarm.
But that idea was rejected quickly by Vice President Richard B. Cheney in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." His rejection came before President Bush and other allied leaders announced that they would give the United Nations one more day to force Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to disarm, essentially abandoning diplomacy.
Giving Saddam more time to comply with U.N. resolutions is "exactly what we've been doing for 12 years," the vice president said.
Saddam "clearly is not in compliance. … We're approaching the point where further delay helps no one but Saddam Hussein," Mr. Cheney said. "The more time passes, the more time he's got to work on developing new [weapons] capabilities, the more time he's got to position his forces to attack or try to mount and support terrorist operations against our forces in the [Persian Gulf] region or elsewhere."
Interviewed on CNN's "Late Edition," Jean-David Levitte, French ambassador to the United States, said the idea was first proposed by Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.
The ambassador would not guarantee that France would support a military attack if Iraq failed to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction within 30 days.
"The idea is that it is possible to disarm Iraq peacefully, and that's what's happening right now," said Mr. Levitte.
Mr. Chirac's 30-day timetable for Iraqi disarmament would be conditioned on approval of the U.N. weapons inspectors.
Relations between the United States and France have become strained because of France's announced intent to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution, prepared by the United States, Britain and Spain, that would trigger military force if Iraq failed to meet a deadline today for total disarmament.
That deadline is still in effect, Mr. Bush said alongside British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the end of their emergency summit yesterday in the Azores.
Also on CNN, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell predicted that, even after 30 days, France still would oppose any resolution calling for use of military force against Iraq.
Asked about that claim, Mr. Levitte said that would not necessarily be the case "if the inspectors tell us they have reached a dead end" and cannot get Iraq to declare and eliminate any more banned weapons.
At that point, he said, "The Security Council will meet and decide, and we don't exclude the use of force."
On NBC, Mr. Cheney questioned why giving Saddam an extra month to disarm would put pressure on the French to support a resolution calling for military force against Saddam.
"Now, with all due respect to the French, if you look back at their track record, they have consistently opposed efforts to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for his actions," Mr. Cheney said.
The vice president and Mr. Powell, who both appeared on multiple network news talk shows yesterday, each pointed to Security Council votes in the late 1990s in which France seemed to be trying to avoid punishment for Iraq for failing to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.
"In '98, France announced [Saddam] was free of all [such weapons], something nobody believed," Mr. Cheney said. "And, in '99, of course, they opposed the creation of Unmovic, the existing inspection regime that they now want to place their total faith in, with respect to trying to disarm Saddam Hussein.
"Given that pattern of behavior, it's difficult for us to believe that 30 or 60 more days are going to change anything," the vice president said.
In appearances on CNN, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said a new 30-day deadline would be acceptable only if countries now opposed to war with Iraq would make commitments to join in a military effort after the 30 days.

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