- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, calling the U.N. weapons-inspections system "unacceptable," warned yesterday that the United States would thwart any attempt to send in inspectors under the old rules.
"There is standing authority for the inspection team, but there are weaknesses in that authority which make the current regime unacceptable.
"We need a new resolution to clean that up and to put new conditions on the Iraqis so that there is no wiggling out," Mr. Powell said.
He said yesterday that the existing inspections regimen is so unacceptable that "if somebody tried to move the team in now, we would find ways to thwart that."
Mr. Powell also accused Iraq of reneging on its promise Monday to readmit international arms inspectors "without conditions," issuing his strongest statement of support for unilateral U.S. action if the United Nations fails to act.
He said at a House International Relations Committee hearing that new demands by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to the U.N. General Assembly session in New York over the inspection teams proved Baghdad's offer was just a "familiar tactical ploy to try to get out of the box."
Saddam "is already walking back, he is already stepping away from the 'without conditions' statement that they made on Monday," Mr. Powell said. "But he is not deceiving anybody."
But comments by two top Russian officials signaled that Iraq's offer to readmit inspectors had opened cracks in the U.N. Security Council and complicated the Bush administration's drive.
Igor Yusupov, energy and power minister and the Russian government's point man on Iraq, told reporters on a visit to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: "Of course, the United States has no moral right to attack Iraq after Iraq has agreed to allow weapons inspectors."
"If experts are allowed to inspect defense facilities of Iraq and they find nothing objectionable, Russia will not support any sanctions against Iraq," he added.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who met Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon yesterday, challenged assertions by U.S. skeptics that U.N. weapons inspectors can never hope to find all of Iraq's suspected nuclear-, chemical- and biological-weapons capability.
"Being experienced in that sort of business, both Americans and Russians, we can easily establish whether there exists or not weapons of mass destruction technology," Mr. Ivanov contended.
In a letter to the U.N. General Assembly session in New York, read by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri yesterday, Saddam contended that his country had no biological, chemical or nuclear weapons and demanded that any discussion of new inspections be broadened to include Iraq's complaints against the international body.
"Iraq was, and still is, ready to cooperate with the Security Council and international organizations," Saddam said in the letter.
"However, Iraq rejects any transgression by whosoever at the expense of its rights, sovereignty, security and independence that is in contradiction with the principles of the [U.N.] Charter and international law," he warned.
He said the U.S.-led pressure campaign was engineered to bolster American ally Israel and to seize control of vast Middle East oil flows.
The White House and President Bush rejected Saddam's assertions.
"The speech is an attempt to lure the world down the same dead-end road that the world has traveled before and, in that, it represents a disappointing failure by Iraq," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
"I didn't hear it, but let me guess," Mr. Bush said later in the day, summing up the Iraqis' new argument, "the United States is guilty, the world doesn't understand, we don't have weapons of mass destruction it's the same old song and dance we've heard for 11 years."
Mr. Powell, seen as the leading voice in the Bush administration for a multilateral approach to Iraq, made clear yesterday that he was not willing to let the U.N. process constrain Washington's right to define and defend its security interests.
"We will preserve at all times the president of the United States' ability to defend our nation and our interests as he sees fit. Do it with our friends, do it with the United Nations, or do it alone," Mr. Powell told lawmakers.
On a day when the president submitted a request for congressional authorization to act against Baghdad, divisions were evident among Republicans and Democrats on the prospect of war.
Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and House International Relations Committee chairman, and Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat and committee ranking member, depicted Saddam as a threat who needs to be dealt with by the United States.
Mr. Lantos said, "Saddam Hussein, on the basis of his record, could only be trusted by morons."
But conservative Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, and liberal Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, Georgia Democrat, were among those sharply opposed to U.S. military action.
Betsy Pisik in New York and Joseph Curl in Washington contributed to this article.

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