- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

President Bush yesterday shrugged off U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's assertion of Iraqi cooperation with weapons inspectors, saying Saddam Hussein appears uninterested in "complying with disarmament."
When a reporter pointed out that "Annan says Iraq is cooperating," Mr. Bush shot back: "Well, we've been at this what? five days. This is after 11 years of deceit and defiance."
Summing up the first days of inspections by U.N. weapons officials, Mr. Annan said Tuesday that Iraqi "cooperation seems to be good."
"There is a good indication that the Iraqis are cooperating, but this is only the beginning," he said.
But Mr. Bush sounded more pessimistic while talking about Saddam's true intentions.
"One of my concerns is that in the past, he has shot at our airplanes," the president told reporters at the White House. "Anybody shoots at U.S. airplanes or British airplanes is not somebody who looks like he's interested in complying with disarmament.
"He wrote letters, stinging rebukes to what the U.N. did; he was very critical of the U.S. and Britain," Mr. Bush added. "That doesn't appear to be somebody who is that anxious to comply."
Iraq continued to insist yesterday that it has no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons and that it would say so in a report to be delivered to the United Nations on Saturday, a day ahead of the world body's deadline.
"Soon he'll be making a declaration of whether he has any weapons," Mr. Bush said. "For years, he said he didn't have any weapons. And now we'll see whether or not he does.
"And if he does, we expect them to be completely destroyed and a full accounting," he added. "The world will determine soon whether or not Saddam Hussein is going to do what we've asked, which is, in the name of peace, fully disarm."
A few hours after Mr. Bush spoke, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan accused U.N. inspectors of gathering intelligence for the United States and Israel.
"Their work is to spy to serve the CIA and Mossad," Mr. Ramadan said, using language that harkened back to animosities over the previous U.N. inspection effort that ended in 1998.
Although the president was more downbeat compared to Mr. Annan in assessing Iraqi compliance, he sought to minimize the disagreement. Mr. Bush emphasized that the U.N. Security Council unanimously supported a U.S.-sponsored resolution demanding that Saddam give up his weapons.
"I remind our citizens that the U.N. Security Council voted overwhelmingly, 15 to nothing, for this approach we've taken," he said. "Our NATO allies have joined us. And we all expect Saddam Hussein to disarm."
He added: "This is our attempt to work with the world community to create peace."
But diplomats at the United Nations privately fretted that ill will between Washington and Baghdad was undercutting the council's glow of unanimity over the Nov. 8 resolution that returned the weapons inspectors to Baghdad.
The disagreement between Mr. Bush and Mr. Annan reflected a fragile consensus within the council, where many of the other 14 members always have been queasy over U.S. threats to depose Saddam and disarm Iraq by force.
The resolution followed two months of painstaking negotiations that pitted the United States and Britain against France and Russia, with the latter seeking to send inspectors without threatening Iraq.
In the end, the resolution threatened Iraq with "serious consequences" a diplomatic term of art meaning war if it did not disarm. In exchange, the United States agreed to discuss any military action with the council.
"France welcomes the lack of 'automaticity' in the final resolution," said Jean-David Levitte, the country's former ambassador, who also praised a provision giving the council the right "to meet immediately to decide on a course of action."
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint declaration, during a visit to India, urging Iraq to cooperate with the inspectors and adding a caveat directed at Washington.
"Both sides strongly oppose unilateral use or threat of use of force in violation of the U.N. Charter, as well as interference in the internal affairs of other states," said the declaration by Mr. Putin and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
In their public remarks after the Nov. 8 vote, ambassadors from China, Russia, Mexico and Ireland said that their nations had accepted the resolution only because it takes the question of war back to the council for further discussion.
However, Richard Grenell, a spokesman for John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the consensus achieved Nov. 8 remained firm.
"The council was united in voting for Resolution 1441, which gives the Iraqis one final chance to comply," he said. "The council has been united in saying this is the final opportunity. We're all united, we're still united, no one has backed away from it."
Mr. Bush was not the only member of his administration with tough words about Saddam's reliability. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell scoffed at contentions by Iraqi officials that Baghdad has no weapons of mass destruction.
"The Iraqis are always making statements that contradict each other, day after day," Mr. Powell told reporters in Bogota, Colombia. "We're sure they have in their possession weapons of mass destruction.
"And the burden is on them to prove that they don't," he added. "And if they do have [weapons], they better acknowledge it and make those programs accessible to the U.N. inspections teams."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was more blunt.
"We've heard Iraqi lies before," the spokesman said. "The last time the Iraqis said they had no weapons of mass destruction, they turned out to be liars."
He hinted that the administration would wait until Iraq presents its report Saturday and then check it against U.S. intelligence on weapons sites.
"Whether the inspectors ultimately will be able to disprove any lie by the Iraqis remains to be determined," Mr. Fleischer said. "The administration will review the information that we receive from the Iraqis. We have our own ways of determining whether something seems to be accurate or not."
Although Mr. Bush kept up his aggressive rhetoric against Iraq, he seemed to suggest that war was not imminent even if Baghdad fails to comply by this weekend.
"We've just started the process," he said. "The process is just beginning."
Mr. Fleischer cautioned that many more inspections must be done to gauge Iraqi compliance.

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