- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

A key U.S. senator said yesterday it would be one of his worst nightmares to have Saddam Hussein agree to let U.N. weapons inspectors back into his country.

Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican, yesterday dismissed pledges of cooperation with U.N. resolutions that Baghdad has made in recent days.

"You can't trust the man at all. One of my worst nightmares is that he agrees to let inspectors back in," said Mr. Thompson, the top Republican on the Committee on Government Affairs and a member of the Senate intelligence panel, in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

Mr. Thompson said inspections would be as ineffective as they were in the early 1990s and would merely buy Saddam time to keep a war on hold while he develops weapons of mass destruction.

"I think that it would be fruitless. I think that he has demonstrated to us and he's learned from the last go-round when we actually got very, very little out of our inspection routine, he has learned from that, and he knows now how to keep things from us."

The senator said: "There's no way in the world that we could effectively discover and do anything with what he's got there And it would buy him probably another couple or three years to do what he really wants to do."

After the Persian Gulf War, Saddam agreed Iraq would no longer develop weapons of mass destruction and that it would allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the country to check compliance.

However, Iraq has barred the inspectors since 1998, and U.S. military officials say he has continued producing weapons of mass destruction.

"It looks to me like that, in the end, we will have to go in and do something about that," Mr. Thompson added.

However, Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said on CNN's "Late Edition" that she believes allowing the weapons inspectors back into Iraq is crucial.

"If anything can be done to diffuse the situation, it is allowing the inspectors in unfettered access," Mrs. Boxer said.

Saddam must allow the inspectors access to "every inch of the land there, without any interference," she said.

"If they don't let the inspectors in, we're going to have to deal with it," Mrs. Boxer said, while also stressing that military action should be a "last resort."

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