|Ambassador Butler on the Iraq Deal|
February 26, 1998
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott recently accused the Clinton administration of "sub-contracting" American foreign policy decisions to the United Nations. It was the latest example of an on-going debate over what role the U.N. should have in international relations. Following a background report, Jim Lehrer examines this debate with the NewsHour's regular panel of historians and Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.N. ambassador for the Reagan administration.
PHIL PONCE: Chief U.N. inspector Ambassador Richard Butler made his views public today on the deal reached between U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Butler said the Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, would facilitate the search for weapons.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER, Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector: This is a strong agreement. It's an agreement where I suggest to you, you should not look so much at the fine print, although that's fine by me, but not so much at the fine print, but the thumb print.
The thumb print prints on this agreement are those of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the president of Iraq with him, he consulted personally on this agreement. I look forward to implementing it as soon as possible, and, as many have said, to going out into the field and to testing in practice what is written on paper.
PHIL PONCE: The first question Butler was asked, whether Kofi Annan had said some U.N. weapons inspectors had a "cowboy" mentality.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: I heard plainly the Secretary-General conveying to the council something that had been said to him by Iraq. He did not himself say those words. What's my response? My response is that I am--I view this Memorandum of Understanding as very important.
There have obviously been difficulties between Iraq and the commission in the past. I don't want to dwell on them. We're ready to do our job as quickly and as diligently as possible under this document that has got important thumb prints on it. I hope Iraq's ready to do the same. Of course, it's best if we get this work done in a courteous and cooperative attitude with each other.
PHIL PONCE: Did Iraqi criticism of his own leadership make him consider resigning?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: We've been through a pretty rough period in the last few months of this crisis. A lot of things have been said by a lot of people, some perhaps less well judged than others, and I don't think any point is served by going over that now.
I'm happy in my job, and I propose to continue to do it, and I know that that's what the secretary-general of the United Nations wants me to do, and I look forward to continuing to do this to the best of my ability.
PHIL PONCE: Butler was asked about Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala, the new commissioner for the special group that will inspect eight presidential sites in the company of diplomats.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: I'm utterly delighted. Jayantha Dhanapala is a man that I have known for almost 30 years. We did basic diplomatic training together in Canberra, Australia, in the late 60's. He's also one of the world's best experts on matters of disarmament.
PHIL PONCE: Butler emphasized the new commissioner will report to him.
AMBASSADOR RICHARD BUTLER: This isn't layers of bureaucracy. I said at the beginning, I'm very happy with these arrangements. It gives us new resources. It gives us access to sites that Iraq said as recently as December, look at my December report to the Security Council. It said, Mr. Tariq Aziz told me that these sites were--and this was his word--absolutely off limits. Kofi Annan has brought home a Memorandum of Understanding that makes them on limits.
And this is the set of arrangements and the reporting responsibilities of the clear we'll go now where we weren't able to go before, and what's different? We'll have some diplomatic observers with us to see that both sides--not just UNSCOM but Iraq too and Kofi Annan has made this point--that both sides behave in an appropriate manner in these rather special sites.
I think that's fine. And the core of it and the leadership of the inspection will be an UNSCOM technical person. So we'll go there and do our work.
PHIL PONCE: What did he think Saddam Hussein was hiding?
RICHARD BUTLER: The disarmament process, as I've said to you many times, has three parts. They declare; we verify; and together we destroy. What will I do to that process if I tell you in public what we think is there? This MOU has important thumb prints on it.
It's a high political commitment to cooperation. I, therefore, expect that Iraq will work with us now fully in that three-part process. They will declare; we will verify; and then together we will destroy.