- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld put Baghdad on notice yesterday that refusal to turn over weapons scientists for questioning would constitute a violation of the new U.N. arms resolution.
Recruiting Iraqi scientists to reveal Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is considered key to the Bush administration's proof to the world that Baghdad is hiding prohibited material.
Pressed by the White House, the United Nations has asked Baghdad for a list of current and former weapons specialists. The names are due at the end of the month.
"If I were an Iraqi government official, I would be as worried about that provision as any other provision, because that is the provision. If they refuse to allow people to get out with their families, they will have violated that resolution," Mr. Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference.
Mr. Rumsfeld's stance raises another inspections flash point for a U.S. war against Iraq to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Iraq could be cited for lying about its weapons and blocking inspectors and could draw a military response for not making its weapons specialists available to the West, as ordered in U.N. resolution 1441.
The White House has been vague on what type of violation would trigger a decision by President Bush to go to war. Later this week, the White House is expected to give its formal response to Iraq's 12,000-page weapons declaration submitted Dec. 8.
The U.S. has built up a force of more than 60,000 troops in the Persian Gulf region. U.S. war plans call for as many as 250,000 American troops to participate in an invasion with the purpose of preventing Baghdad from obtaining nuclear weapons.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday that Mr. Bush's war decision will be based on "what it will take to save and protect American lives in the event that he reaches the conclusion that Saddam Hussein will, indeed, engage in war against the United States or provide terrorists with weapons to engage in war against the United States, just like on September 11 with the attack."
The Bush administration wants an aggressive effort by Hans Blix, who leads the U.N. inspection team in Iraq, to recruit scientists and take them and their families to safe houses for debriefings, then to political asylum.
U.S. officials say some of the best information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction during the first round of inspections in the 1990s came from defecting scientists.
"We know for a fact," Mr. Rumsfeld said, "that the most important information that inspectors have ever gotten on what's going on in Iraq have come from defectors and from people who had personal knowledge inside the country as to what was happening."
Mr. Blix at first said he was not in the "defection" business, but he agreed last week to U.S. demands to seek a list of specialists.
Iraq met one U.N. demand last week by submitting the written accounting of all its weapons prohibited by a 1991 cease-fire agreement and other resolutions.
Senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, have criticized the report for omissions.
When the last U.N. inspection team left Iraq in 1998, it filed an extensive report listing weapons and components, such as Scud missiles and biological agents, not accounted for by Baghdad. U.S. officials say Iraq's Dec. 8 declaration does not account for those weapons. Iraq maintains that it no longer owns weapons of mass destruction.
Senior defense officials have little confidence that Mr. Blix's team can unravel the mystery. Using defectors, officials say, the administration will catch Saddam in his lies. Then, Mr. Bush can make the case to allies for a forcible regime change.
Of previous defectors, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "When we had that kind of expert opinion from inside, from people who had been inside the country, knew the programs, that was when we were able to discover things."
The latest U.N. resolution, No. 1441, says Iraq shall provide inspectors "immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted and private access to all officials and other persons whom [the inspectors] wish to interview."
Bill Sammon contributed to this report.

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