- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

NEW YORK The Bush administration, while still expecting Iraq to break its promise to cooperate with the United Nations, has begun work on a new Security Council resolution that will accelerate the timetable for getting weapons inspectors in place.
Under existing resolutions, drafted with U.S. participation, it could take many months before the extent of Baghdad's cooperation becomes clear, pushing any military action against Iraq well into the latter part of next year.
But U.S. officials hope for a new resolution to replace the time frame laid out in a key 1999 Security Council resolution and to eliminate old language that essentially has allowed Iraq to declare so-called presidential sites off limits.
A resolution being drafted with British cooperation also will speak of consequences if Iraq does not comply. U.S. and British officials said the draft could be circulated to other council members next week.
"Our view is that unconditional inspections, inspections without conditions, means that the inspectors can go anywhere anytime, see anyone, inspect anything at the time and place of the inspectors' choosing," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
"We made clear [the new resolution] has to be different. And it's for the Security Council to specify how it should be different."
Administration officials have not specified a timeline but warned yesterday that Baghdad's first test could come in the next two weeks.
Senior Iraqi officials are to meet with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix in Vienna, Austria, at the end of the month to hash out basic logistical and operational issues before the inspectors can begin their work.
Mr. Blix has met with senior Iraqis three times in the past year to try to negotiate matters as mundane as long-term lodging, secure communications systems and the scheduling of government minders, but each time the talks have ended without agreement.
"We believe there does not need to be extended discussion on practical arrangements," an administration official said. "We believe the Iraqis will continue to stall."
Asked whether a failure to agree on practical matters in Vienna would constitute intransigence, the official said, "We have no reason to believe that this time they're going to comply."
The Bush administration is skeptical about the usefulness of renewed inspections, citing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's long history of "deception and defiance."
Senior officials for months have been preparing Americans and foreign allies for a war with Iraq.
"No terrorist state poses a greater and more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.
In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly last week, Mr. Bush characterized Saddam as "a grave and gathering danger."
In the following days, nearly every government publicly urged Iraq to cooperate with the new weapons inspection team. In the Security Council, this turned into nearly unanimous support for a new, tougher resolution.
But much of the support for a new Security Council resolution dissolved after Iraqi officials agreed Tuesday to inspections "without conditions."
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov bluntly rejected the need for a new resolution, joined in more diplomatic language by the French.
Mr. Blix is scheduled to brief the council today on his discussions with the Iraqis and to update it on the prospects for the meeting in Vienna.
U.N. officials said the talks were likely to last a day or two but could not rule out additional meetings if necessary. Those talks will include the U.N. Monitoring, Observation and Verification Commission, or Unmovic which is to look into chemical and biological weapons and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which handles the nuclear files.
Even if the Vienna talks are productive, under the existing U.N. resolutions, substantive inspections could be months away.
Once the ground rules are clear, Unmovic will send technicians to reclaim their offices and labs from four years of disuse.
Computers, satellite phones and monitoring equipment must be ordered and installed. Contracts must be negotiated for vehicles, helicopters and outside laboratories.
Only then will the first groups of specialists go to Iraq. These scientists, interpreters, chemists and others will start piecing together a summary of the results of previous inspections for comparison, and repairing the delicate remote-sensing network presumed to have been destroyed since the last group of inspectors left in December 1998.
The inspectors will have 60 days to determine what more Iraq must do before it can be certified free of proscribed chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as long-range missiles.
Unmovic spokesman Ewen Buchanan said yesterday that he wouldn't hazard a guess as to how long it would take to get to the invasive inspections of new sites.
"But we will not drag our feet," he said.

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