- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

The Bush administration is set to declare Iraq in violation of the U.N. resolution requiring Baghdad to give up weapons of mass destruction, The Washington Times has learned.

"It is going to be 'material breach,' not as a casus belli [cause for war] but as a basis to begin hammering Unmovic to do more," said an administration official familiar with the internal debate. Unmovic, or the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, is the arms-inspection group for Iraq.

Administration officials said a material-breach declaration will depend on whether Iraq fails to mention in its U.N. report some banned weapons programs identified in U.S. intelligence reports.

Iraq's report detailing everything it possesses related to weapons of mass destruction, which is due by Sunday, is required under a U.N. Security Council resolution passed Nov. 8.

A meeting of the White House National Security Council (NSC) is scheduled for today, and the Iraqi arms declaration will be the key topic. The president will not attend the gathering of senior officials of national security agencies, known as the principals committee.

U.S. officials said the administration has been withholding detailed intelligence on hidden Iraqi arms programs from U.N. inspectors. The information deals mostly with Iraq's covert chemical and biological arms.

"We do not want to tip our hand," the official said.

One piece of intelligence includes details on a cache of more than 1,800 gallons of anthrax spores, the officials said. Even tiny amounts of anthrax can be lethal. Less detailed intelligence has been gathered on Iraq's efforts to build nuclear weapons, the officials said.

The intelligence on the hidden weapons is said to be reliable and will be used to verify whether information presented by Iraq in its declaration is accurate.

An Iraqi general told the Associated Press yesterday that Baghdad will hand over the list of chemical, biological and nuclear programs Saturday, a day ahead of the U.N. deadline.

Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin said the report will not disclose any banned weapons, "because, really, we have no weapons of mass destruction."

The U.S. position on how to respond to the Iraqi weapons list is being debated because of Baghdad's history of using deception to hide its arms programs, the officials said.

A U.S. policy of material breach, however, will be a key step toward the use of military force to oust the regime of Saddam Hussein, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The issue of declaring a material breach was discussed earlier this week at the NSC principals committee meeting, which, one official said, ended in "chaos" over disagreements on how to respond to the Iraqi declaration.

The administration expects Baghdad to turn over documents related to civilian programs that could be used to make chemical or biological arms, but nothing about covert weapons programs, the officials said.

President Bush said Tuesday that "any act of delay, deception or defiance will prove that Saddam Hussein has not adopted the path of compliance and has rejected the path of peace."

State Department and Pentagon spokesmen had no comment on the internal debate. A White House National Security Council spokesman also declined to comment.

Today's principals meeting will include Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who missed the first meeting because he was in South America.

U.N. weapons inspectors so far have not uncovered any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs or any illegal missile-development work.

Those in the administration who want to oust Saddam favor issuing a material-breach declaration soon after Iraq presents the list.

These officials include representatives of the Defense Department, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, along with Vice President Richard B. Cheney and his key national security aides.

Officials from the State Department, including Mr. Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, oppose that view and favor slowing the timetable for military action.

These officials want to study the documents provided by Iraq and then continue U.N. arms inspections as a way to hold off military action.

Officials said Mr. Powell and Mr. Armitage are the leading opponents of using military force to oust Saddam. Both favor using the threat of force to compel Iraq to disarm, however.

According to the officials, Mr. Powell disagrees with administration officials who view Iraq, as Mr. Bush put it in an October speech, as a unique and "grave threat" to the United States.

Mr. Powell also does not share the view of Mr. Bush's senior advisers who say Saddam is likely to use weapons of mass destruction or share them with terrorists, the officials said.

"Powell favors endless inspections," one official said.

Mr. Powell is the main advocate of the argument that if Iraq gives up all its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs it would be tantamount to "regime change," even if Saddam remains in power.

Other officials say the secretary of state's position undermines efforts within the administration and among American allies for removing Saddam and setting up a democratic government in Baghdad.

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