Tuesday, January 21, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) — President George W. Bush expressed exasperation Tuesday with arguments that U.N. weapons inspectors must be given more time to prove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is not disarming, saying the situation was beginning to resemble “a rerun of a bad movie.”

Iraq was not disarming, he insisted, adding that unless it does, the United States and others will disarm it.

“Make no mistake about that, he (Saddam) will be disarmed,” Bush said.

The president’s comments, made before a meeting with economists at the White House, punctuated statements by officials that he was determined not to let the world backslide on Iraq despite France’s announced intention to block any U.S. move toward military action.

“This is not a question of containment (of Iraq),” spokesman Ari Fleischer said. “Iraq will either disarm or the United States will lead a coalition to disarm him (Saddam).”

“… The president is determined that the world not fall back” and repeat the “mistakes of the 1990s” that allowed Iraqi leader Saddam to continue to defy the international community.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking Monday at the United Nations, said his country opposes military force to rid Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction. U.N. inspections, he said, were successful in curbing Iraqi behavior.

“If war is the only way to resolve this problem, we are going down a dead end,” he said. “Already we know for a fact that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen.

“We must do everything possible to strengthen the process.”

“We believe that today nothing justifies envisaging military action,” he said.

France, as one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, has the power to veto any move by the council to back its approval of force.

The French position deviated from earlier stances that indicated it would go along with military action to disarm Iraq of suspected chemical and biological weapons and compel its compliance with other U.N. mandates if approved by the Security Council.

The White House said De Villepin’s statement, when looked at closely, indicated France believed Iraq possesses the illicit weapons, contradicting Iraq’s claim that it does not.

“Implicit in that (statement) is France is saying Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” Fleischer said.

Fleischer added the United States and other nations recognized they needed to “give the United Nations a spine” when Bush in September went to the body and challenged it to enforce its own resolutions.

“The world came together, including the French, to say he must disarm,” Bush said Tuesday. “He’s not disarming. As a matter of fact, it appears to be a rerun of a bad movie. He is delaying, he is deceiving, he is asking for time. He’s playing hide-and-seek with inspectors.

“One thing is for certain, he’s not disarming. So the United States of America, in the name of peace, will continue to insist he does disarm, and we will keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.”

The United States, together with Britain, maintains that Iraq has failed to live up to the last-chance Security Council resolution passed in November. Iraq has failed to prove it does not have weapons of mass destruction, it argues. Last week, U.N. inspectors in Iraq found 16 empty chemical weapons warheads. It is unclear whether warheads constitute a violation. The warheads were not mentioned, however, in a 12,000-page report Iraq submitted to the United Nations on its weapons in line with Security Council Resolution 1441.

Bush repeated Tuesday the focus of the world should not be on the inspectors, but on disarmament.

“He wants to focus the attention of the world on inspectors. This is not about inspectors; this is about a disarmed Iraq, ” he said.

“As I said, this looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I’m not interested in watching it.”

U.N. inspectors, who returned to Baghdad late last year after a four-year hiatus, are scheduled to give a report on their Iraq operations and findings Jan. 27. Many believe the United States wants to use the report as a mechanism to begin a final phase of preparations for military action.

More than 120,000 U.S. troops will be in the Gulf region by the end of the month in case Bush decides on war, and Britain has said it is sending about 25,000 troops, a quarter of its army.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide