- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

Russia yesterday refused to agree to a White House demand for a new U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein, setting President Bush on a course to block the reintroduction of arms inspectors into Iraq.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who spoke by telephone for half an hour yesterday with Mr. Bush, said getting a U.N. inspection team back into Iraq to look for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons remains the priority.
"It is vital to concentrate on the fastest possible deployment of U.N. inspection and monitoring missions" to Iraq, Mr. Putin said in a Kremlin statement.
The Russian stance differs from that of the Bush administration, as articulated by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Thursday. Mr. Powell said sending weapons inspectors back to Iraq under existing U.N. resolutions dating back to 1990 is "unacceptable."
"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.
The secretary of state went so far as to say the existing inspections regime flouted by Saddam for years before he kicked U.N. inspectors out of Iraq in 1998 is so unacceptable that "if somebody tried to move the team in now, we would find ways to thwart that."
The differing positions on inspectors has set up a collision course between the United States and Russia, which, as one of the five permanent members on the U.N. Security Council, has veto authority over any resolution.
France and China, the other permanent members on the Security Council along with the United States and Britain, have also called for a return of inspectors to enforce the existing 16 U.N. resolutions on Iraq. Only Britain supports the U.S. position of a new U.N. resolution calling for an inspection regime backed by the threat of force if Saddam thwarts inspectors' efforts.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell have both rejected Iraq's offer this week to readmit inspectors, calling it a "ploy" by Baghdad. The president said Saddam will obstruct inspectors as he did in the 1990s, calling the offer "the same old song and dance we've heard for 11 years."
Mr. Bush met yesterday in the Oval Office with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who characterized the talks as virtual agreement about the two nations' goals.
"Russia and the United States are firmly in favor that Iraq should fully comply with the provisions of all respective resolutions of the Security Council. Russia and the United States firmly believe that the international U.N. inspectors must return to Iraq," the Russian foreign minister said.
"Russia and the United States are firmly interested in making the work of international inspectors in Iraq effective and ensuring that this work gives a clear answer whether there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or not," he said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, however, said Mr. Bush was firm with the Russians.
"The president stressed in the meetings the importance of making certain that the United Nations doesn't make the same mistake twice, and that it's important to have a different type of inspection, one that is effective, one that will make certain that Iraq has disarmed," Mr. Fleischer said, adding, "The president is focused on disarmament. That remains the key, not the process of inspectors."
The prospect of drafting a tough U.N. resolution fell apart earlier this week. Russia, France and Britain had been ready by Monday to back a resolution authorizing unspecified but firm consequences if Baghdad did not allow the swift return of U.N. weapons inspectors, but the deal fell apart after Saddam said he would allow the "unconditional" return of inspectors.
"From our standpoint, we don't need any special resolution," Russia's foreign minister said Monday.
Since then, however, Iraq has backed away from its "unconditional" offer.
Declaring Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam sent a message to the United Nations accusing Washington of fabrications in order to attack his country and take control of Middle East oil.
Reading a message from Saddam to the U.N. General Assembly, Iraq's foreign minister yesterday also said that U.N. weapons inspectors returning to his country had to respect arrangements on Baghdad's sovereignty and security, suggesting that some areas like presidential palace grounds would again be off-limits to the arms experts.
Administration officials have in recent days ratcheted up talk about unilateral U.S. action in the event the United Nations fails to deliver the type of resolution Mr. Bush desires.
"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 Thursday.
Other senior administration officials, including Vice President Richard B. Cheney, have laid out the case for pre-emptive strikes to deal with imminent threats to the United States.
On Thursday, Mr. Bush laid out his vast presidential authority as well as powers granted him by the United Nations and Congress in a resolution he sent to Capitol Hill.
In the draft resolution, Mr. Bush states that "the United States has the inherent right, as acknowledged in the United Nations Charter, to use force in order to defend itself."
The resolution also says the president has the congressionally recognized "authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States," as well as the "authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national-security interests of the United States."
While the resolution does not explicitly call for the ouster of Saddam, it does cite the 1998 congressional approval of a bill calling for "regime change," signed by President Clinton.
"Congress in the Iraq Liberation Act [of 1998] has expressed its sense that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime," it says.
White House lawyers in July determined that Mr. Bush has the authority to use military force without approval from Congress.
Most importantly, Mr. Bush cited "the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1)," which was passed by Congress in 1991. The law authorized the use of military force which became Operation Desert Storm as part of enforcement of the U.N. Security Council resolutions to drive Iraq from Kuwait and "to restore international peace and security in the area."
The law remains in effect and is still applicable as long as Saddam continues to violate U.N. resolutions.


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