- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 9, 2002

Saddam Hussein kept his own counsel yesterday as Iraq weighed the fallout from yesterday's stunning 15-0 Security Council vote demanding that the regime disarm.
Governments across the Middle East, many of whom hoped the U.N. debate would slow or even scuttle a U.S.-led campaign against Saddam, scrambled yesterday to position themselves in the wake of the vote.
Iraq's state-run media, which has accused the Bush administration of exploiting the U.N. process to justify military action, maintained a studious silence yesterday. The lead news item on the official television broadcast was the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and typical Iraqis could only learn of the U.N. vote through foreign radio reports.
"Iraq will certainly study the resolution and decide whether we can accept it or not," Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri told reporters in New York after the vote.
Egypt, a U.S. ally in the region and a longtime rival to Iraq for influence in the Arab world, said it hoped the Security Council vote could still produce a peaceful resolution of the standoff over Saddam's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "has urged the Iraqi government since the start of the crisis to respect the U.N. resolutions, accept the return of inspectors and allow them to freely complete their mission," Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters in Cairo.
Mohammed Sabir Ismail, the Washington representative for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two major Iraqi Kurdish parties that have long battled Saddam's regime, hailed the vote as a "strong signal to Baghdad."
But he predicted that, based on past performance, Iraq would not comply with the strict new weapons-inspection program and that conflict remains likely.
Mr. Douri said he was surprised that Syria, the only Arab state that now has a seat on the 15-nation Security Council, supported the U.S.-British text. Many had expected Damascus, which has improved ties with Saddam in recent months after a long period of hostility, to at least abstain from the resolution.
"I don't blame anyone," Mr. Douri told reporters. "We respect and understand all the votes."
But Martin S. Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Syria's vote "had to be a shock for Saddam."
"The fact that the Syrians voted for the resolution is a clear signal that Saddam will have trouble splitting off the Arabs and playing the victim against American aggression," Mr. Indyk said.
Bush administration officials said they made a special effort to win Syrian support, with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell making a direct appeal to Foreign Minister Faruq Shara, according to Syria's official press. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also phoned Syrian President Bashar Assad to press for a unanimous Security Council vote.
"I think Syria just ultimately saw where their interests were in this matter," a senior administration official said yesterday.
Foreign ministers from the 22-nation Arab League, including Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, meet this weekend for talks on the U.N. vote. Syria had pressed unsuccessfully in the Security Council for a delay on the Iraq vote until the Arab League meeting was concluded.
Saudi Arabia, which has made plain its opposition to a U.S. invasion of Iraq, also withheld comment after yesterday's vote.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said earlier this week that the kingdom would be obliged to "cooperate" with the United Nations if Saddam defies the latest resolution on disarmament.
But he said any decision on whether to allow the use of Saudi bases for U.S. operations in Iraq would be made "when the time comes."
Israel was the one government in the region to express strong backing for the U.N. vote.
"Israel supports the U.N. Security Council resolution on the Iraqi issue and values the determination of President Bush in leading the process," a spokesman for new Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem.

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