- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) — The United States Thursday said it was opposed to U.N. weapons inspectors releasing a second report on Iraqi disarmament in late March because the 1999 U.N. resolution setting that timetable was no longer relevant.

The 1999 resolution, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, was "based on the assumption that Iraq would cooperate and comply (with earlier mandates), and at the end of the day have (economic) sanctions removed.

"And (Resolution) 1441, which was, of course, enacted after witnessing Iraq's failure to cooperate and failure to comply, set out a different series of times and procedures … 1441 is relevant to the reality of today."

The U.S. position formed after it was learned the chief weapons inspector Hans Blix planned a second report on Iraqi compliance or non-compliance after the one being issued on Jan. 27, a move that could split the U.N. Security Council and also complicate any possible U.S. plans for early military action against Iraq.

Blix has argued the second report was provided by the U.N. move creating his inspection organization.

U.N. weapons inspectors returned to Iraq in November after a four-year hiatus to verify Iraq's claim that it does not possess forbidden weapons of mass destruction, missiles with ranges beyond 150 kilometers or precursor agents for weapons of mass destruction.

The return came after President George W. Bush went to the United Nations and challenged it to act forcefully on the Iraqi threat to peace and its 11-year disregard for U.N. disarmament mandates or the United States would take matters into its own hands with willing allies.

On Thursday, inspectors found 11 unfilled chemical warheads in a facility southeast of Baghdad. The warheads were said to be in good condition, and the facility was apparently built in the late 1990s.

The United States and Britain say Iraq has the contraband weaponry and it is up to them to prove they don't.

Thursday's find was the most significant yet by the inspectors, who previously had not found a "smoking gun."

Fleischer repeated Thursday that Bush had not yet made a decision on whether to take military action against Iraq. War and peace, he said, was in Saddam's hands — he must comply fully with U.N. Resolution 1441 on disclosing fully his weapons programs and disarming weapons of mass destruction if military conflict is to be avoided.

Bush earlier this week said he was "sick and tired" of Saddam Hussein's "games and deception" with U.N. inspectors and the international community.

The White House was not immediately available for comment Thursday on the weapons find.

France and Germany want a second resolution from the Security Council on Iraq non-compliance and authorizing force before any military action begins.

Fleischer repeated the administration line when asked if the United States would oppose such a move.

"No, it's exactly what I said yesterday, that we're going to continue to consult. And I think there's a division among different nations about whether one is necessary or not.

"The commitment that the president made was to consult and he will keep that commitment. But clearly, the U.N. has already spoken once, and powerfully so."

The United States currently has more than 60,000 troops in the Gulf region. The number will double before the end of the month.

In addition, warships and combat aircraft have been sent to the region.

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