- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2002

NEW YORK U.S. and European leaders yesterday brushed off a "message" from the Iraqi parliament after the handpicked legislative body voted unanimously to reject U.N. demands that the country disarm.
All 250 members of the Iraqi National Assembly each of whom must swear an oath of loyalty to Saddam Hussein voted to recommend against cooperating with a new U.N. resolution on weapons inspections. The legislature specifically left the final decision, which is due no later than Friday, to Saddam himself.
This is "a message to the United States that the people of Iraq are united behind their leadership," parliament Speaker Saadoun Hammadi told reporters following a two-day session in Baghdad.
"It also shows that the people of Iraq know that in the U.N. resolution there are major allegations which are baseless."
In Washington, President Bush brusquely dismissed the significance of the vote, describing the assembly as a "rubber stamp" for the Iraqi president.
"That's all. We're through negotiations. There's no more time," Mr. Bush said. "The man must disarm."
France, whose objections held up the U.N. resolution on Iraq for two months, meanwhile gave its clearest endorsement yet of military action if Iraq rejects the latest Security Council resolution.
"It is up to Saddam Hussein, and Saddam Hussein alone, to meet his international obligations," Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said on French radio.
"Now it is in the interest of his country and his people, and he must" comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. "If Saddam Hussein does not comply, if he does not satisfy his obligations, there will obviously be a use of force."
In Damascus, Syria's state-run radio said yesterday the U.N. resolution had averted war for now, and that Baghdad could make war "impossible" by cooperating with arms inspectors.
"Resolution 1441 disabled the automatic war plan against Iraq and opened the way for calm work with the United Nations, friends and permanent members of the Security Council to distance the specter of war for a period," Damascus Radio said in a political commentary.
"During [that period], the war will become impossible if Iraq takes better advantage of the circumstances and cooperates well with the international inspection teams," it said.
Resolution 1441, passed unanimously on Friday, demands unrestricted access to any suspected weapons site and the right to interview Iraqi scientists outside the country and without Iraqi officials present.
Iraq, which maintains it no longer has weapons of mass destruction, has insisted on respect for its sovereignty, an argument it used previously to restrict access to Saddam's many palaces.
In its formal statement urging Saddam to reject the U.N. resolution, the parliament said Iraq's political leadership should "adopt what it considers appropriate to defend the Iraqi people and Iraq's independence and dignity."
The resolution further "authorizes President Saddam Hussein to adopt what he sees as appropriate, expressing our full support for his wise leadership."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Iraq to accept the U.N. resolution in spite of the legislative recommendation, noting that it had been passed by a unanimous Security Council vote and endorsed by the Arab League.
"I hope the message will get through," he told reporters.
Mohamed El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also urged Iraq to cooperate during a half-hour meeting in New York with Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri.
"What I was trying to impress on him is that it should be a completely new phase, with demonstration of full cooperation and full transparency," Mr. El Baradei told the Associated Press afterward.
He and Hans Blix, the chief of the U.N. program to find and destroy Iraq's suspected chemical and biological weapons programs, expect to leave for the region Friday evening, assuming Iraq accepts the U.N. resolution.
Their team could begin limited inspections two weeks later, they have said, with more rigorous work beginning after Baghdad files a full and final declaration of its weapons programs, which is due December 7.
Saddam's son, Udai, a member of the parliament who runs a major Iraqi newspaper and television station, opened yesterday's proceedings in Baghdad by asking the legislature to accept the U.N. resolution as long as it had the backing of Arab nations and provided for the participation of Arab inspectors.
Udai Hussein is still a powerful figure in Iraq, although he is no longer considered his father's heir apparent.
U.N. officials say some Arabs have gone through the training program to join the inspection programs, and indicated they would appreciate more qualified applicants from the region.
The Arab League formally endorsed the resolution in Cairo over the weekend, also with the provision of Arab inspectors.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday warned a meeting of his ruling National Democratic Party that a war in the region could unleash terrorism and violence.
"If there is an Iraq attack, it will affect everyone and lead to acts of terrorism and violence, which might not happen immediately, but it will give the opportunity to terrorist groups," Mr. Mubarak was quoted as saying by the Egyptian minister of information, Safwat al-Sherif.
Russia, one of Baghdad's closest supporters on the Security Council, also urged the Iraqi leadership to accept the resolution yesterday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov called on Baghdad "to exercise self-control and pragmatism" by accepting Resolution 1441, according to the Interfax news service.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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