- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

President Bush will tell Americans in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that Saddam Hussein possesses "massive piles of weapons of mass destruction," but has not decided what to say about providing more time for U.N. weapons inspectors to look for those arms in Iraq.

The president will use his nationally televised, prime-time speech "to continue the education of the public about the threat and danger that the Iraqi regime poses," one administration official said.

Mr. Bush is waiting for more information early next week before deciding whether to support more time for the U.N. inspectors to conduct searches in Iraq, a senior administration official said.

Meanwhile, a senior official at the Pentagon said yesterday that Saddam plans to sabotage oil facilities in the event of an invasion by the United States and that U.S. forces will take steps to protect Iraq's energy infrastructure.

Mr. Bush will declare in his hourlong address to the nation that Iraq is dangerous "due to the massive piles of weapons of mass destruction it currently possesses," White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said.

"The president will talk about and provide context to the American people about those events that are upcoming," Mr. Bartlett said.

The president will not "declare war" or provide direct evidence of weapons violations by Iraq, the senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The senior official said the administration is contemplating allowing the inspections to go on longer as a means of reassuring nervous European allies especially Germany and France.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell dismissed European calls for significantly more time.

"I have yet to hear from any of my European colleagues as to when they would be satisfied with respect to inspections," Mr. Powell said in today's editions of the Financial Times.

"The trouble with this is … the issue is not the inspectors. The issue is Iraq," Mr. Powell said, adding:

"What will we know in two or three months' time in the face of Iraqi noncooperation, which you most likely will get?"

Mr. Powell, the most dovish senior official in the administration, said time is running out for Saddam.

"Iraq continues to try to do it their way. They continue to deceive. They continue to practice deception. They are not answering the most fundamental questions that, in the last several days, we have been putting before the world in very stark terms," Mr. Powell said.

"What happened to the anthrax? What happened to the chemical weapons?" he asked. "What happened to the artillery shells? What happened to the botulinum toxin? … Why aren't you coming clean? Why do you continue to act as if nothing has really changed?"

The White House yesterday also accused Saddam of threatening to kill Iraqi scientists who try to be interviewed in private by U.N. weapons inspectors.

"President Bush believes that Iraq's refusal to allow Iraqi scientists to submit to private interviews with U.N. inspectors is unacceptable," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said.

"Iraq has an obligation to comply. This is not a matter of negotiation. This is not a matter for debate. Saddam Hussein has no choice.

"His refusal is further evidence that Iraq has something to hide," the spokesman added. "Iraq must allow and encourage its scientists to participate in private interviews, and it must do so without delay and without debate."

The comments came as a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said cooperation from Iraqi officials has been "quite satisfactory."

"Their report card will be a 'B,'" spokesman Mark Gwozdecky told the Associated Press.

With IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei poised to relay this positive assessment to the U.N. Security Council on Monday, the White House hastened to offer a second opinion.

"The only grading system should be pass-fail," a senior administration official said

The White House noted that Saddam has killed Iraqis who were disloyal, including his own sons-in-law. By branding the inspectors as "spies," Saddam makes clear to Iraqi scientists that they will be killed if they cooperate, Mr. Fleischer said.

"While [weapons inspectors] are saying that they have gotten what they call some cooperation from Saddam Hussein, they are also the first to say … that they are not getting the cooperation they need when it comes to interviewing the scientists," Mr. Fleischer said. "And they are not getting the cooperation they need and demand about being able to fly U-2 surveillance aircraft over sites in Iraq.

"The real issue is Saddam Hussein making the end of the line come even closer by his unacceptable behavior."

A variety of intelligence sources suggest that in the event of war, Iraq plans to "cause damage or destruction to their oil fields," the senior Pentagon official said in a briefing for reporters.

"We see that as a real potential crisis," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "And as we have crafted a variety of plans, we have taken that into consideration in a fashion that would allow us to preserve and protect that natural resource, that economic future for the Iraqi people."

Saddam controls oil wells, refineries, terminals and pipelines and "we have a concern that he will try to destroy everything," the official said.

Iraqi military forces sabotaged about 700 oil wells in Kuwait at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, causing an environmental disaster and serious financial loss for Kuwait.

Baghdad's forces also released about 5 million barrels of Kuwaiti oil into the Persian Gulf, threatening desalination plants needed to produce fresh water.

"The oil fields in Iraq are about 1,500 wellheads, roughly 1,000 in the south and roughly about 500 in the north. And [Saddam] also, because of the oil manifolds in the Al Faw Peninsula, has a capability to deliberately release up to 2 million to 3 million barrels a day of oil into the Gulf," the senior Pentagon official said. "Destruction of the oil fields truly would be an act of terror."

Repair of the Kuwait oil fields cost about $20 billion. The cost estimate for sabotage of Iraq's oil infrastructure is between $30 billion and $50 billion, the official said.

The official said Iraqi officials have planned, and may have actually taken steps to prepare for, sabotaging oil facilities.

"We have seen military movement in both the northern and southern oil fields that indicate to us that there is a focus on those fields," the official said.

U.S. military planners have crafted strategies for rapid seizure of the oil fields to prevent their destruction.

"This is not about oil as a commodity. It is about oil as the future as it relates to the future of Iraq," the official said. "This is not about the United States trying to gain advantage by taking these oil fields or to preserve its own oil industry. It is solely and most importantly to preserve the capability of the Iraqi people to stand up very quickly after a Saddam regime and become a functioning, capable member of the economic community."

Bill Sammon contributed to this report.

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