- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2001

Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday toughened the administration's position on Iraq, telling a congressional panel that U.N. inspectors must return to hunt for evidence of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
"The inspectors have to go back in," Mr. Powell told the House International Relations Committee yesterday.
He said the Bush administration intends to keep U.N. controls over Iraq's money from oil sales "until our inspectors have satisfied themselves" that no more weapons of mass destruction are being produced or stored in the country.
Addressing himself to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Mr. Powell said, "Let us know when you're ready to let the inspectors in."
Mr. Powell's strong call for the return of the inspectors, who have been barred from Iraq since 1998, contrasted with a statement by Vice President Richard B. Cheney to The Washington Times that U.S. containment of Iraq did not depend on inspections.
"I don't think we want to hinge our policy just to the question of whether or not the inspectors go back in there," he said in an interview published Monday. "It may not be as crucial if you've got other measures in place and you've got a [sanctions] regime that people are willing to support."
Mr. Powell also said that "if and when we find facilities or other activities going on in Iraq that we believe are inconsistent with our obligations, we reserve the right to take military action against such facilities and will do so."
Mr. Powell had proposed during a visit to five Arab capitals last week to ease the sanctions on consumer goods for Iraq while trying to get U.S. allies in the region to crack down on that country's oil smuggling.
But, he testified yesterday, "At the end of the day, the only way [for Iraq] to get out of this regime of control of money is for us to be satisfied that no [prohibited] weapons exist or are being developed."
Mr. Powell refused to condemn the arrival of European and Middle Eastern aircraft at Baghdad's airport in recent weeks, saying it was "not clear" that the flights violate sanctions imposed by the United Nations after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican and former chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said that he was worried by Mr. Powell's proposal to ease the sanctions on civilian goods.
"I've been concerned" that such an action would "make it easier to purchase more weapons materials," he said.
Mr. Gilman voiced what has so far been muted criticism of Mr. Powell's Iraq policy among conservative Republicans, who are reluctant to openly attack the popular former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Mr. Gilman also said he resented accusations that U.S. and U.N. sanctions have been responsible for hunger or disease among Iraqi children. He noted that Saddam Hussein has ample funds to supply their needs.
Any extra cash Iraq received could be used "to purchase more weapons," said Mr. Gilman.
Mr. Powell said Saddam would get "no more money just civilian goods and no access to weapons."
For several years, Iraq has been permitted to sell oil under an "oil-for-food" program under which the proceeds go into an escrow account. Purchases of food and medicine with those funds must be approved by a U.N. committee.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday that a drop in Iraqi oil exports in recent months could reduce the food and medicine available under that programs.
Iraq stopped selling oil because of a pricing dispute with the United Nations and, although it has resumed some sales, it had lost $1.8 billion in oil revenues by the end of January.
Iraq has also been demanding an illegal surcharge on its oil sales, giving it a source of revenue outside the oil-for-food program. The New York Times reported yesterday that it has similarly been demanding kickbacks from vendors of food under the U.N. program.
Mr. Powell was questioned on the Iraq policy during a hearing on the administration's request for a 5 percent increase in the budget for the State Department and other international affairs accounts, to $23 billion.
Mr. Powell said he favored getting rid of Saddam, not just containing his regime.
"Part of U.S. policy does deal with regime change," he said. "It has been part of the government's policy for a number of years now to advocate that the country would be better off without this regime.
"And to that end and with the support of the Congress, we have been supporting organizations that are committed to that proposition."
Mr. Powell told the committee that when he took office, the Iraq policy was "about to crash."
"Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime had successfully put the burden on us as denying the wherewithal for civilians and children in Iraq to live and to get the nutrition and the health care they needed. That was not true, but we had gotten that burden."
He said there were calls to ease the burden on Iraq by U.S. Arab allies as well as by Russia.
"What we've been trying to do for the last six weeks now is to see how we could stabilize this collapsing situation and … bring the coalition back together."
He added: "As I took this idea around the Gulf region, as I talked to my NATO and United Nations colleagues about it, I found pretty good support."
Asked when the Bush administration would honor an election pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Mr. Powell said it would not happen immediately.
"President Bush is committed to moving our embassy to Jerusalem," he said. "We have not started any actions yet, and in light of the very difficult situation that exists right now, we'll continue to examine how that process should start."


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