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Background: Assessing the Iraqi Offer

September 17, 2002 at 12:00 AM EST
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RAY SUAREZ: In capitals across the world today, governments were responding to Iraq’s offer to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back in the country. They haven’t been there in four years. This morning in Baghdad, Iraq’s deputy president talked about his offer, the offer his government made to the United Nations.

TARIQ AZIZ: Our government has decided to allow the inspectors back, and he asked the Secretary general of the United Nations to start discussing the arrangements for their return. This decision is based on what Mr. Kofi Annan said to the general assembly: That the integrity, the sovereignty, the independence of nations, should be respected; that there will be no resort to using force in international relations. And it’s also based that we hope that the return of the inspectors will lead, as soon as possible, to the lifting of sanctions and the normalizing of the situation around Iraq.

RAY SUAREZ: At the United Nations, Secretary of State Powell and a group of foreign ministers joined Secretary General Kofi Annan at a news conference.

KOFI ANNAN: The decision by Iraq to allow the return of the inspectors should be seen as a beginning, not an end; as a beginning in our efforts to return the inspectors, who are going to disarm Iraq. We must also remember that between 1991 and 1996, in particular, the inspectors did an incredible job destroying Iraq’s weapons — from ballistic missiles, to chemical and biological. They didn’t do as much in the biological area, and in the nuclear field, by our atomic agency. So the only way to disarm effectively is to have the inspectors back. But of course given the history of the past, there are delegations and member states who feel that we should not return to business as usual, and that we should take steps to ensure that the inspectors are able to go about their work unimpeded, and with the full cooperation of Iraq. And I think they would want Iraq to understand that this is not going to be business as usual, or a repeat of what happened in the past. Thank you.

COLIN POWELL: And the only way to make sure that it is not business as usual, and to make sure that it is not a repeat of the past, it seems to me, anyway, is to put it in the form of a new U.N. Resolution.

IGOR IVANOV, Foreign Minister, Russia (Translated): We welcome the fact that thanks to efforts, the coordinated efforts of the international community, now we have got to a situation where Iraq has given its consent without any preconditions– and I stress that point– to the return of the inspectors without any preconditions. Of course there could be many views about this. Whether we can believe this, trust this letter or not, I think only facts alone should corroborate this. In order to get the facts, we need to bring about the speedy return of the inspectors to Iraq. On the question of the work of the international inspectors, from our standpoint, we don’t need any special resolution for that to occur. All the necessary resolutions, all the necessary decisions about that, are to hand.

PER STIG MOLLER, Foreign Minister, Denmark: I think I should, on behalf of the presidency of the European Union, tell you what we think. We have noted with interest the letter of… from Iraq, and that it is without conditions. But we must be sure that it is good enough. That’s why we think that exactly the Security Council should consider whether the Iraqi acceptance corresponds to the demands of the Council, where the weapons inspections are concerned. It is evident that the admittance of the inspectors is not sufficient. The Iraqi authorities will also have to extend their full cooperation. So we must have full clarity on these aspects, and there it’s required that we know exactly what has been offered; what can be done. If I were sitting in the Security Council, which I’m not, I would, in the next days, sleep with my eyes wide open, and the boots on. Thank you. (Laughter )

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN: My question is directed towards Russian… the Russian foreign minister. What happens if Iraq refuses access to any site within the country to U.N. weapons inspectors? Should there be consequences? Is this something that you think should be spelled out before the weapons inspectors go back into Iraq?

IGOR IVANOV (Translated ): Today we have an opportunity, we have a decision taken by Iraq to receive the inspectors without conditions. They have to get there now. And after the work of the inspectors, we have to judge by very specific facts whether they can do their job.

COLIN POWELL: The only point I would make is, I think that these are issues that have to be discussed now, and not at some later time. What has changed in the last few days is not the letter that came in yesterday, it’s the full will of the international community being directed to this problem. And it is the international community, through its agency, the United Nations and the Security Council, that should make the judgment as to when, where, if, under what set of circumstances, and with what potential consequences. And that is, I think, going to be a very useful debate within the Security Council in the days ahead.