Iraq submits massive weapons file
In twist, Hussein apologizes for 1990 invasion of Kuwait
By Anne E. Kornblut and Joe Lauria, Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent, 12/08/2002
ASHINGTON -- Iraq turned over a 12,000-page dossier on its weapons programs to UN inspectors yesterday in Baghdad but denied having any illicit weapons of mass destruction, opening a new phase in a standoff which has threatened to bring military action from the United States.
Faced with a demand from the UN Security Council to reveal its forbidden arsenal by today or expect "serious consequences," Iraqi leaders said that the thousands of pages of documents sent to the United Nations show no evidence of nuclear, chemical, or biological programs -- because, they said, none exists.
As the documents were being transferred, President Saddam Hussein issued an extraordinary but guarded apology to the neighboring nation of Kuwait for the 1990 invasion that prompted the Gulf War. Hussein also criticized Kuwait's leaders, saying they were currently under US occupation and had an obligation to oust the Americans.
The dramatic events in Baghdad signaled an attempt by Iraq to forestall military action after two tense weeks of UN weapons inspections.
"Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction," Lieutenant General Hossam Mohammed Amin of Iraq told reporters as he directed the release of the data, which included both papers and CD-ROMs. "I think if the United States has the minimum level of fairness and braveness, it should accept the report and say this is the truth."
The White House responded coolly. Press secretary Ari Fleischer said the administration will "analyze this declaration with respect to its credibility and compliance" with the UN resolution, a process that could take weeks.
Before the documents were delivered, President Bush expressed even greater skepticism about Iraqi cooperation. "Thus far we are not seeing the fundamental shift in practice and attitude that the world is demanding," he said in his weekly radio address.
White House officials will judge the weapons declaration for its "honesty and completeness only after we have thoroughly examined it, and that will take some time," Bush said. "The declaration must be credible and accurate and complete, or the Iraqi dictator will have demonstrated to the world once again that he has chosen not to change his behavior."
In a carefully orchestrated ceremony in front of the international press corps, the documents were turned over at 8:05 p.m. local time in Baghdad. One set is headed today to the UN atomic energy agency in Vienna, and two other sets are being sent to the UN inspections agency and the UN Security Council in New York.
None of the documents are being made public immediately or shared with member nations of the Security Council, including the United States.
The documents, titled, "Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Declarations," were divided into sections about Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile projects.
As the information was handed over, Iraq's information mininister appeared on television with a message from Hussein to the people of Kuwait, who were subjected to Iraqi rule after the 1990 invasion until US-led forces ousted them in 1991.
"We apologize to God for any action that may anger the Almighty, if such an action took place in the past, unbeknownst to us . . . and to you [Kuwaitis] we apologize on this basis as well," said the statement, read by Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.
But Hussein accused the United States of colonizing Kuwait in order to plot against Iraq. "As you can see, the foreigners are occupying your country in a direct occupation," Hussein said. "And as you know, when the foreigners occupy a country, they don't only desecrate the soil, but also the soul, religion, and mind."
Kuwait rejected the apology and accused Hussein of attempting to incite violence against US troops stationed in Kuwait. "The speech contained ecouragement of terrorist acts, which the whole world has rejected and condemned," the information minister, Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah, told Kuwait News Agency.
Kuwait has been a staunch US ally since the Gulf War and is not expected to shift its alignment. Far more critical in determining the future of Iraq was its weapons declaration, a key event at the crossroads between war and peace.
A debate has raged within the Bush administration over whether a false declaration by Iraq would constitute a "material breach" of the UN resolution that sent the inspectors back into Iraq -- and thus trigger war. The resolution passed 15-0 in the Security Council on Nov. 8.
Bush has suggested that if the weapons declaration does not reveal any weapons of mass destruction, it will be a document of pure fiction, given that US intelligence agencies have solid evidence that Iraq is developing nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
But UN weapons inspectors have not yet reported finding any illicit weapons programs, and the White House has not made its proof public or provided it to the inspectors.
Under one possible scenario, US officials could present such evidence directly to the Security Council as the Kennedy administration did during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
But evidence from US intelligence sources about Iraq's weapons may not be enough to convince France and Russia of the need for immediate action, Western diplomats said. Both countries believe they had removed any "automatic triggers" for war in Resolution 1441, and would require a second meeting at the Security Council before military action is launched.
Iraq's UN ambassador, Mohamed Aldouri, reiterated Baghdad's contention that it possesses no weapons of mass destruction. "If the Americans have this evidence, they have to tell the inspectors in Iraq to go find this evidence," he said.
Aldouri acknowledged, however, that "there are new elements in the report." He did not disclose them.
Blix is scheduled to report to the Security Council on Tuesday on how long the process of translating, purging of senstive weapons-making information, and photocopying will take. Blix said he will give his impressions based on "the first glance" at the document.
Once the translated and sanitized document is ready, it will be provided to all 15 Security Council members, who can independently analyze it. The inspectors will then proceed with their own analysis, which could take weeks.
One Western diplomat said council members might be given a chance to see the purged sensitive material that could violate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons treaties, but not be given copies of it. The Security Council is fearful that techniques of making such weapons could become public.
Among the members is Syria, which Washington has put on its "terrorist" list. All five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- have weapons of mass destruction.
Yet even the lengthy timetable may be cause for concern in the United States, and foreign policy specialists said they do not expect the Bush administration to let weeks pass before scrutinizing the document.
"We are going through a bit of charade here. . .," said Ted Carpenter, former policy analyst at the Cato Institute. "I think the administration has already decided on a military course of action, regardless of the nature of this report, regardless of the outcome of inspections."
Kornblut reported from Washington; Lauria, from the United Nations.
This story ran in the Boston Globe on 12/8/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.