- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

The White House yesterday said the discovery of empty chemical warheads in Iraq is proof that Saddam Hussein has not disarmed, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell hinted that harder proof of Saddam's intransigence will be disclosed soon.
Mr. Powell told a German newspaper that "we believe a persuasive case will be there at the end of the month that Iraq is not cooperating," according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
Crude-oil prices shot to $34 a barrel, a two-year high, in reaction to the remark, which was interpreted as a harbinger of war.
Saddam defiantly warned the United States, which is massing troops on its border, that an attack would be suicidal.
"The people and rulers of Baghdad have resolved to compel the Mongols of this age to commit suicide on its walls," the Iraqi dictator said in a speech marking the 12th anniversary of the Persian Gulf war.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Thursday's discovery of empty warheads in Iraq was "serious and troubling."
"The discovery of 12 chemical warheads is proof that he has not disarmed," Mr. Fleischer said. "He filed a declaration saying that he did not have weapons. And now we know, of course, that he has them."
But U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix yesterday appeared blase about discovery of the warheads.
"Not a big deal," said Mr. Blix, who urged the world "not to be worried."
Although the Bush administration dropped hints that the conflict might come to a head within weeks, French President Jacques Chirac counseled patience.
"The inspectors have asked for more time," Mr. Chirac said in a Paris press conference with Mr. Blix. "Wisdom requires us to grant this request."
Mr. Chirac also cautioned Washington that any nation taking unilateral action against Baghdad would "not be complying with international rules." But Mr. Powell said President Bush was ready to act alone or with allies such as Britain if that's what it takes to disarm Saddam.
Mr. Chirac also insisted that the U.N. Security Council should be the final arbiter on whether to launch a military strike.
"Only the Security Council can assess the reports and requests of the inspectors," he said. "War is always a sign of failure and the worst solution."
But the White House said inspectors are serving not just the Security Council, but also its individual members, any one of which could interpret the findings as cause for war.
"Their mission is to inspect and to verify and to dismantle," Mr. Fleischer said of the inspectors. "The United States, members of the Security Council, have the right to judge the actions that they're taking."
Although Baghdad has insisted that it disclosed the existence of the warheads in its 12,000-page report, Mr. Blix said yesterday he wasn't sure whether Iraq had mentioned them in the document.
The White House, however, was unequivocal.
"The chemical warheads found by the inspectors were not not on the declared list that Iraq provided to the world indicating what weapons it said it possessed," Mr. Fleischer said.
"If somebody wants to make the contention that the 12 chemical warheads discovered at this facility late-'90s constructed bunker just outside Baghdad is in the declaration, the burden is on them to show the world what page it's on and to cite the reference.
"The United States government has very thoroughly and we're familiar with the declaration gone through it very, very carefully to see whether or not the existence of these 12 warheads at this bunker was in the declaration," he said. "It was not."
Mr. Blix said he wanted "to have more explanations" from Baghdad about the warheads, which were discovered by his team of inspectors at an Iraqi munitions dump.
"We feel that we need a more sincere and more pro-active cooperation from the Iraqi side," Mr. Blix said.
Although he said the inspections have "come a long way," he added that that was "not yet confidence, not yet certainty" that Iraq had dismantled its weapons of mass destruction.
"The level of cooperation of Iraq has been patchy," said Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Iraqis must "prove that they are clean," he said. "If they do that, there is light at the end of the tunnel."
But the Bush administration sounded much less optimistic.
"What is Saddam Hussein hiding?" Mr. Fleischer asked. "And what else has Saddam Hussein failed to list in his declaration?"
Even more hawkish comments came from Mr. Powell, who is often portrayed as more dovish than the rest of the administration. Although an English transcript of his interview with the German newspaper was not immediately available, Reuters news agency translated the German version to quote Mr. Powell as saying, "We believe that at the end of the month, it will be convincingly proven that Iraq is not cooperating" with U.N. weapons inspectors.
Mr. Fleischer was asked whether the comment suggested the administration plans to reveal fresh evidence by the end of the month. Mr. Bush is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address on Jan. 28.
"The president and members of his administration will continue to talk to the public about this matter," Mr. Fleischer said. "If it reaches the point where the president has come to the conclusion that he has seen enough to the point where the only way to protect us is by disarming Saddam Hussein, he will inform the country about that."


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