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Rebuilding Iraq

UNITED NATIONS

US faults Iraq for report, says it won't trigger war

By Anthony Shadid, Globe Staff, and Joe Lauria, Globe Correspondent, 12/19/2002

ASHINGTON -- The Bush administration declared yesterday that Iraq had failed to account for all its weapons programs in its 12,000-page report to the United Nations, but US officials made clear that the report itself would not prompt military action and that intensifying UN inspections in Iraq would continue.

While the US officials did not provide specific evidence to support their conclusions, the White House said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and John D. Negroponte, the US ambassador to the United Nations, would issue a more detailed response today after a Security Council briefing by the chief UN inspector, Hans Blix.

Powell, a leading architect of the administration's strategy to work through the United Nations, pledged that the United States would continue to cooperate with its allies, a demand that was reiterated yesterday by France. But analysts said Washington's dissatisfaction with the report would undoubtedly serve as a crucial -- but not the only -- element in constructing a case for war.

"Iraq was given an opportunity in UN Resolution 1441 to cooperate with the international community, to stop deceiving the world with respect to its weapons of mass destruction," Powell said after meeting European Union officials in Washington. "We are not encouraged that they have gotten the message or will cooperate, based on what we have seen so far in the declaration. But we will stay within the UN process."

The White House was more explicit in its criticism of Iraq's weapons disclosure, which was handed over to the Security Council on Dec. 7. While US officials said the report would not constitute a "material breach" -- UN parlance that could justifiy military action against Baghdad -- White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the report failed to meet the UN resolution's demand for an "accurate, full, and complete" report on its programs for missiles and chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

"The president is concerned about Iraq's failure to list information in this document, the president is concerned with omissions in this document, and the president is concerned with problems in this document," Fleischer said in the administration's first public assessment of the weapons declaration.

But he made clear that the administration wanted the inspections to continue and insisted that Bush would act in a "deliberative way." In the meantime, White House officials suggested the United States would use the report to bolster its public case against Iraq and push for more aggressive inspections. Fleischer said if there was a decision to attack Iraq, President Bush planned to repeatedly address the US public about the justification for war.

Bush was expected to make his first public comment on the disclosure tomorrow.

From the start of the crisis, Iraq has insisted it is no longer developing weapons of mass destruction and has cooperated with inspectors, who have returned to the country after a four-year hiatus.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said yesterday that the report had failed to account for "large quantities of nerve agent, chemical precursors, and munitions" that were listed in the final report by UN inspectors, who left Iraq in 1998 ahead of four days of US and British airstrikes. The report also lacked any discussion of weapons programs since that date, an omission Straw called an "obvious falsehood."

Iraqi officials did not immediately respond to those charges.

Many analysts saw the criticism of the declaration as a turning point in the administration's strategy toward Iraq, making it easier for Washington to press its case for a more assertive UN role. In past weeks, US officials have been increasingly vocal in urging UN inspectors to interview Iraqi scientists outside the country, and it appears likely that Iraqi interference with those interviews could prove a flash point.

"The report serves two purposes -- one, additional pressure is placed on the UN to intensify its inspections and to begin interviewing Iraqis out of the country, and two, it sends a crystal-clear message to the Baghdad regime that any further obstruction breaks the camel's back and precipitates military action," said David L. Phillips, a senior fellow and Iraq specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

The White House's signal that it will continue working through the United Nations as it builds its case against Iraq could serve to strengthen a nascent international coalition and help calm skittish allies, including France, which repeated its position yesterday that only the Security Council could decide what action to take if President Saddam Hussein of Iraq violates the UN resolution.

"In the event of a material breach by Baghdad of its obligations, [the inspectors] should report it to the Security Council, and it will be up to the Security Council and the Security Council alone to draw all the conclusions," Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, told the National Assembly in Paris.

But US preparations for war remain underway. A former Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that while the administration is not necessarily rushing into a conflict, he expects those preparations to intensify soon with a call-up of reservists, the dispatch of more equipment to the region, and alerts going to certain military units.

"Right after the first of the year, you'll probably see the pace of military activity pick up," he said.

Early on, some of the Pentagon's civilian leaders were upset by President Bush's decision to enlist the Security Council in any campaign against Iraq. But the official, who remains privy to ongoing debates there, said the administration now appears relatively united on the course ahead. "I think basically they've gotten over their pique over this, and they can see this has served to help them in certain ways," he said. "They see things are moving in the right direction."

US says Iraq failing in declaration to UNWASHINGTON -- The Bush administration declared yesterday that Iraq had failed to account for all its weapons programs in its 12,000-page report to the United Nations. But US officials made clear that the report itself would not prompt military action and that intensifying UN inspections in Iraq would continue.

While the US officials did not provide specific evidence to support their conclusions, the White House said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and John D. Negroponte, the US ambassador to the United Nations, would issue a more detailed response today after a Security Council briefing by the chief UN inspector, Hans Blix.

Powell, a leading architect of the administration's strategy to work through the United Nations, pledged that the United States would continue to cooperate with its allies, a demand that was reiterated yesterday by France. But analysts said Washington's dissatisfaction with the report would undoubtedly serve as a crucial -- but not the only -- element in constructing a case for war.

"Iraq was given an opportunity in UN Resolution 1441 to cooperate with the international community, to stop deceiving the world with respect to its weapons of mass destruction," Powell said after meeting European Union officials in Washington. "We are not encouraged that they have gotten the message or will cooperate, based on what we have seen so far in the declaration. But we will stay within the UN process."

The White House was more explicit in its criticism of Iraq's weapons disclosure, which was handed over to the Security Council on Dec. 7. While US officials said the report would not constitute a "material breach" -- UN parlance that could justifiy military action against Baghdad -- White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the report failed to meet the UN resolution's demand for an "accurate, full, and complete" report on its programs for missiles and chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

"The president is concerned about Iraq's failure to list information in this document, the president is concerned with omissions in this document, and the president is concerned with problems in this document," Fleischer said in the administration's first public assessment of the weapons declaration.

But he made clear that the administration wanted the inspections to continue and insisted that Bush would act in a "deliberative way." In the meantime, White House officials suggested the United States would use the report to bolster its public case against Iraq and push for more aggressive inspections. Fleischer said if there was a decision to attack Iraq, President Bush planned to repeatedly address the US public about the justification for war.

Bush was expected to make his first public comment on the disclosure tomorrow.

The Washington Post reported today that the administration has set the last week in January as the make-or-break point in the standoff and is confident that by then it will have marshaled the evidence to convince the Security Council that Iraq is in violation of the resolution.

The report cited unidentified administration officials who pointed to Jan. 27, when Blix is scheduled to make his first substantive report to the Security Council on Iraq's weapons declaration as well as its cooperation with inspectors.

From the start of the crisis, Iraq has insisted it is no longer developing weapons of mass destruction and has cooperated with inspectors, who have returned to the country after a four-year hiatus.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said yesterday that the report had failed to account for "large quantities of nerve agent, chemical precursors, and munitions" that were listed in the final report by UN inspectors, who left Iraq in 1998 ahead of four days of US and British airstrikes. The report also lacked any discussion of weapons programs since that date, an omission Straw called an "obvious falsehood."

Iraqi officials did not immediately respond to those charges.

Many analysts saw the criticism of the declaration as a turning point in the administration's strategy toward Iraq, making it easier for Washington to press its case for a more assertive UN role. In past weeks, US officials have been increasingly vocal in urging UN inspectors to interview Iraqi scientists outside the country, and it appears likely that Iraqi interference with those interviews could prove a flash point.

"The report serves two purposes -- one, additional pressure is placed on the UN to intensify its inspections and to begin interviewing Iraqis out of the country, and two, it sends a crystal-clear message to the Baghdad regime that any further obstruction breaks the camel's back and precipitates military action," said David L. Phillips, a senior fellow and Iraq specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

The White House's signal that it will continue working through the United Nations as it builds its case against Iraq could serve to strengthen a nascent international coalition and help calm skittish allies, including France, which repeated its position yesterday that only the Security Council could decide what action to take if President Saddam Hussein of Iraq violates the UN resolution.

But US preparations for war remain underway. A former Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that while the administration is not necessarily rushing into a conflict, he expects those preparations to intensify soon with a call-up of reservists, the dispatch of more equipment to the region, and alerts going to certain military units.

"Right after the first of the year, you'll probably see the pace of military activity pick up," he said.

Early on, some of the Pentagon's civilian leaders were upset by President Bush's decision to enlist the Security Council in any campaign against Iraq. But the official, who remains privy to ongoing debates there, said the administration now appears relatively united on the course ahead.

"I think basically they've gotten over their pique over this, and they can see this has served to help them in certain ways," he said. "They see things are moving in the right direction."

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 12/19/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.





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