[shniad at sfu.ca: [R-G] U.S., Britain may give more time on Iraq]
ehrbar at econ.utah.edu
Sat Jan 25 15:51:55 MST 2003
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Los Angeles Times January 24 2003
U.S., Britain may give more time on Iraq
Powell and Straw discuss letting arms monitoring proceed for weeks if they
get assurances from allies that inspections won't drag on.
By Robin Wright
Washington -- The outlines of a possible compromise on Iraq began to take
shape Thursday, as the United States and Britain seriously considered
allowing U.N. weapons inspections to continue for several weeks in hopes of
making the case with skeptical allies and public opinion.
The two allies came to no formal conclusions during talks between Secretary
of State Colin L. Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. But both
deliberated the option of giving the arms monitors extra time in exchange
for assurances from allies that inspections won't drag on indefinitely,
according to U.S. and British officials.
"You need space to show that the policy is working and to convince public
opinion that you have let this process take its course. There's no need to
go to war in February, for example," said a British official who requested
Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also moved to shore up
support on Capitol Hill, where some key senators have complained that the
Bush administration has failed to make a case for war. Behind closed doors,
the pair acknowledged the administration's concern over allied opposition to
military intervention in Iraq, made most vocally this week by France and
Powell and Rumsfeld indicated that the administration is prepared to let the
U.N. teams continue their work "a little longer," maybe a month or so,
according to Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), the ranking Democrat on the
Foreign Relations Committee.
In New York, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz charged that Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein is blocking cooperation by Iraqi scientists under
threat of death. "We know from multiple sources that Saddam has ordered that
any scientists who cooperate during interviews will be killed, as well as
their families," he said in a speech outlining the scope of Iraq's
noncompliance at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Behind the scenes, the administration is scrambling to deflect the mounting
"We came slowly to the realization that this is a real crisis. A lot of
people thought it could be managed and the Europeans brought along," said a
well-placed U.S. official who requested anonymity.
The aggressive French and German campaign to mobilize support against war
and some "diplomatic but direct" language from Britain has now convinced
many, but not all, of the principal administration players of the need to
look for middle ground, he added.
In a spate of speeches and background briefings with senior U.S. officials
this week, the administration has worked hard to make its case that there is
evidence that Iraq is not complying with inspections, and that no "smoking
gun" is needed.
Washington has been deeply frustrated that the barometer of cooperation has
been whether or not the U.N. teams find hidden nuclear, chemical or
biological weapons or ballistic missiles and not that Hussein voluntarily
turn over known outstanding items.
Serving as the bridge between the United States and Britain's European
neighbors, London is particularly concerned with closing the growing chasm
over what to do next in Iraq, British officials said.
Britain, which has now committed one-quarter of its standing army to the
Persian Gulf region, shares the U.S. conviction that Iraq is guilty of
violating its promise to disarm, and London is prepared to stand with
Washington if the United Nations does not, according to British and White
But London also is pressing for credible evidence of one of three
circumstances, British officials say, to justify military intervention: a
"smoking gun" in the form of concealed weapons; evidence that Hussein is
lying; or tangible proof that Baghdad is blocking the inspections process.
While some senior U.S. and British officials insisted that London is not
pressuring Washington to prolong inspections indefinitely, Prime Minister
Tony Blair, due here for talks next Friday, is likely to urge President Bush
to allow U.N. teams time to show that Hussein is not complying.
"We need something more decisive than this general feeling that Iraq is not
really cooperating," one senior British official said. "From our point of
view, we don't have enough to go to war at this point we will prefer to
wait until the circumstances are more favorable to broader support."
Under growing pressure from allies and Iraq's neighbors, the United States
engaged in heavy diplomacy Thursday to prevent a diplomatic face-off over
Baghdad at the United Nations next week, with the White House acknowledging
that some of America's closest allies may end up on the sidelines of any
U.S. military action.
"It is their prerogative, if they choose, to be on the sideline," White
House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Thursday.
Russia joined the diplomatic skirmishing Thursday when President Vladimir V.
Putin told Bush during a telephone call initiated by Moscow that there are
no grounds yet to use force against Hussein.
"The efforts of the international community must be directed now at helping
international inspectors perform their mission," Russian Foreign Minister
Igor S. Ivanov said at a news conference in Athens. "There are no grounds at
the moment to use military force against Iraq.
"We would like to hope that no one would take any unilateral action and
bypass the U.N. Security Council," Ivanov said, according to the Interfax
With U.N. inspectors' assessment of Iraq's cooperation due Monday, four of
the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council are now
campaigning hard for continued inspections and diplomacy, despite what chief
weapons inspector Hans Blix has characterized as Baghdad's failure so far to
fully cooperate with the inspections.
Even Britain said Thursday that it would prefer a second U.N. resolution on
the use of force to disarm Iraq. Powell said another resolution is still "an
At the same time, however, Britain sided with the United States in plotting
strategy to pressure the Security Council to face both the realities and
consequences of inaction.
"To say, 'Never mind, I'll walk away from this problem or ignore it or allow
it to be strung out indefinitely without no end,' I think, would be a defeat
for the international community and a serious defeat for the United
Nations," Powell said after his talks with Straw.
No decisions on next steps will be made, however, until after Blix makes his
first mandated report 60 days after inspections resumed Nov. 27 under a
unanimous Security Council resolution.
"Both sides are interested in seeing what happens Monday before they talk
again and make any decisions," the well-placed U.S. official said. "None of
this is going to get any clearer until then."
In the meantime, the United States is now scrambling to influence Blix and
also the other Security Council members and redefine the debate that will
follow his report.
At a closed-door meeting in New York, a senior State Department official
told Blix on Thursday that his job is not to find a "needle in a haystack"
but for Iraq to hand over its needles to the United Nations, according to
The U.S.-led effort to confront Hussein got a boost Thursday from a summit
of Iraq's neighbors in Turkey. The six states, also including Syria, Iran,
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, called on Baghdad to be "more active" in
disarming "in full conformity" with U.N. resolutions so the region is not
put through yet another war.
"We therefore solemnly call on the Iraqi leadership to move irreversibly and
sincerely toward assuming their responsibilities in restoring peace and
stability in the region," a communique said.
Times staff writers Ronald Brownstein and Janet Hook in Washington, Maggie
Farley in New York and David Holley in Moscow contributed to this report.
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