- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

A defiant Iraq yesterday announced it would not comply with any unfavorable new United Nations resolutions, rejecting U.S. efforts to secure a tougher measure that threatens war with Baghdad if it does not give up chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Kuwait yesterday, Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan, said American forces are ready for military action against Iraq.
"We are prepared to do whatever we are asked to do," Gen. Franks said at a news conference in Kuwait City, where 10,000 U.S. troops are stationed. "We're prepared to undertake whatever action we may be directed to take by our nation."
In the brief statement yesterday, state-run Iraqi radio in Baghdad said: "American officials are trying, according to the media, to issue new bad resolutions from the [U.N.] Security Council. Iraq declares it will not deal with any new resolution that contradicts what has been agreed upon with the U.N. secretary-general."
Iraq's statement did not spell out the terms of that agreement. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced last Monday that Iraq had agreed to accept the unconditional return of international weapons inspectors, whom Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein kicked out in1998.
With its announcement yesterday, Iraq ruled out having the United Nations add expectations or consequences.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in an interview on CNN yesterday that he was not surprised by Iraq's insistence that it will not follow new U.N. Security Council resolutions it finds objectionable.
"Anyone who has watched over the past decade has seen the Iraqis defy some 16 United Nations resolutions and change their position, depending on what they thought was tactically advantageous to them and then kind of jerk the United Nations around. So it is no surprise at all," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Gen. Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, acknowledged increased military exercises in the Gulf. More U.S.-Kuwaiti amphibious ground, air and naval exercises were expected to begin this month.
But Gen. Franks stressed that President Bush has not decided whether to use military force to remove Saddam from power.
His comments follow published reports that, earlier this month, he gave Mr. Bush a detailed set of military options to topple Saddam and neutralize his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. The highly classified plan will undergo refinements in the weeks ahead.
U.S. and British diplomats have tried to persuade other nations on the Security Council to approve a new resolution that threatens Iraq with war for non-compliance.
They have been trying to overcome resistance from Russia, China and France to such a resolution. As permanent members of the Security Council, each of those countries, like the United States and Britain, has veto power that could kill the resolution.
Reports yesterday indicated Moscow could be willing to compromise. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the return of U.N. arms inspectors into Iraq would not prevent new Security Council resolutions "harsher than any previous ones."
Mr. Ivanov said U.N. weapons inspectors could return to Iraq by early next month following negotiations between Baghdad and the United Nations in Vienna.
In an earlier letter to Mr. Annan, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri noted that the secretary-general had told the U.N. General Assembly that the return of weapons inspectors should be the indispensable first step toward a "comprehensive solution that includes the lifting of sanctions" imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
In an agreement with Iraq in February 1998, before weapons inspectors left that country and were barred from returning, Mr. Annan said the U.N. inspectors would "respect the legitimate concerns of Iraq relating to national security, sovereignty and dignity" of the sites they examined.
The ouster of Saddam and elimination of his weapons of mass destruction would be the primary goals of the United States if President Bush decides to invade Iraq. Mr. Bush has said the United States would launch a unilateral attack on Baghdad, if necessary, should the United Nations decide not to help.
U.S. officials are skeptical about the value of weapons inspections. Before inspectors return, American leaders want the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution that lays out punishment for Iraq should it fail to follow the world organization's dictates. To date, Iraq has violated 16 other U.N. resolutions, Mr. Bush and his administration have stressed.
In the CNN interview, Mr. Rumsfeld was asked whether Saddam was "playing into U.S. hands" and building support for a military offensive against him by opposing a new U.N. resolution.
"Well, of course, there are judgments the president will make after talking to [Secretary of State] Colin Powell and others who were working the U.N. piece of the puzzle," Mr. Rumsfeld told senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.
"They couldn't be playing into our hands in any sense," Mr. Rumsfeld added, because Iraq has "defied" the United Nations, not the United States, all these years.
Mr. Rumsfeld was asked whether he could live with a situation in which Saddam agreed to be exiled to another country. The defense secretary said he could, provided Saddam's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction is destroyed.
"If Saddam decides to take a handful of family members and senior leaders and go away, and no longer would Iraq have those weapons, and no longer would they threaten their neighbors I personally think that would be a good thing for the world," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
He added: "The goal is that Saddam not be a threat and not have the relationships they do with terrorist states."
Mr. Rumsfeld also said he had no "hard" evidence that al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin laden, mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America, is still alive.
"I don't believe I've seen a hard piece of evidence that would persuade me that he was alive since last December, and it's now September," he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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