NEWSMAKER: DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AZIZ
November 13, 1997
In response to the U.N. Security Council's decision to punish Iraq for refusing to comply with arms inspections, the Iraqi administration has expelled Americans working for the U.N. Special Commission, UNSCOM. Now, the U.N. has decided to remove all arms inspectors from Iraq. Margaret Warner speaks with Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz about his country's actions, and two members of Congress provide their perspectives.
CHARLES KRAUSE: The latest turn in the conflict between the U.N. and Iraq began yesterday afternoon when the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to impose new sanctions on Iraq if the American inspectors were expelled. But the warning and the threat were ignored in Baghdad. Pro-government demonstrators took to the streets shortly before the government, itself, announced that it would defy the Security Council resolution. A statement issued by Iraq's Revolutionary Council said all six American members of the U.N. arms inspection team would be expelled immediately. Inspectors from other countries, however, could remain and continue their work according to the statement. But this morning in Washington President Clinton warned Iraq that its ploy would not work.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
November 13, 1997
Two members of Congress provide their perspective on Aziz's comments.
November 12, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson discusses the Security Council's vote to impose stricter sanctions on Iraq.
November 11, 1997
Four foreign policy experts debate how best to deal with Saddam Hussein.
November 10, 1997
Defense Sec. Cohen discusses the situation with Iraq.
November 7, 1997
The chief U.N. arms inspector discusses Saddam's latest moves.
November 3, 1997
Sec. Cohen issues a stern warning to Saddam Hussein.
October 9, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson discusses tensions between the U.S. and Iraq.
September 10, 1996
A discussion with two Iraq experts in the U.S..
September 4, 1996
A group of experts discuss Saddam Hussein's decision to send troops in the Kurdish Safe Haven.
Online Forum: 1996:
The plight of the Kurds in Northern Iraq.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle East.
International Atmoic Energy Agency
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Iraq's announcement this morning to expel the Americans from the inspection team is clearly unacceptable and a challenge to the international community. Let me remind you all again--I will say this every time I discuss this issue--these inspectors in the last six years have uncovered more weapons of mass destruction potential than was--and destroyed it--than was destroyed in the entire Gulf War. It is important for the safety of the world that they continue their work. I intend to pursue this matter in a very determined way.
Iraq accuses U.N. of carrying out the agenda of the U.S.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Shortly after the President spoke the House International Relations Committee unanimously approved a resolution urging Mr. Clinton to use military force if Iraq does not back down. Meanwhile, at the United Nations this morning Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to explain Iraq's decision. Afterwards, Aziz again accused the U.S. of using American arms inspectors in Iraq to undermine Iraq's government and President Saddam Hussein.
TARIQ AZIZ, Deputy Prime Minister, Iraq: The American government is hostile against Iraq, and it is not fair; it's not just that the Americans are left to lead this commission while performing and implementing--implementing their government's policy.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Any hopes Iraq had of splitting the U.S. from its allies in the U.N. were quickly dashed an hour after Aziz spoke. Shortly after meeting in New York Richard Butler, the executive chairman of the U.N.'s special commission on Iraq, called UNSCOM, held his own press conference.
RICHARD BUTLER: We will not accept this illegal separation of nationalities. Therefore, I will withdraw all UNSCOM staff tomorrow and leave a skeleton staff at the Baghdad center to sustain our facility pending resolution of the present crisis. Our goal is to keep open the possibility to restart our work as soon as possible when the conditions are acceptable. I am requesting that Iraq allow the Americans to depart tomorrow on board the UNSCOM aircraft with the rest of our staff. Agreement to this request would make virtually no difference in terms of the time at which the Americans would be out of Iraq. I await an answer from Baghdad. Thank you.
REPORTER: Well, Mr. Butler, is the U.N. monitoring operation going to be able to survive the withdrawal of all these inspectors, or is it going to be seriously hampered, the day to day continuing monitoring?
Butler: "Every day lost makes the circumstances worse..."
RICHARD BUTLER: Our skeleton staff will be running our machines. Some of those include remote--these screens on the receiving end of remote cameras. But I would be misleading you if I thought that gave us any confidence. The fact is that every day that has passed since the 29 October announcement by Iraq has harmed our monitoring effort, and certainly the absence of inspections has been a matter of most serious concern. Every day lost makes the circumstances worse, and, of course, when we leave tomorrow, those problems will simply grow.
CHARLES KRAUSE: At about 3 P.M. New York time the U.N. confirmed that the American inspectors had left Baghdad by land and moved to Jordan.
JIM LEHRER: Now the Iraqi view from its deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz. I talked to him earlier this evening.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Aziz, welcome.
TARIQ AZIZ, Deputy Prime Minister, Iraq: A' Saalem, A' Saalem.
JIM LEHRER: Can you confirm, sir, that the six American inspectors did leave Iraq on the way to Jordan this afternoon?
TARIQ AZIZ: They were supposed to leave. I don't have that information about their departure, but I presume that they might have left, yes.
JIM LEHRER: Why did your country order them out of your country?
TARIQ AZIZ: Well, this was a decision that was taken on the 29th of October and postponed till the end of deliberations of the Security Council. As far as the Security Council has decided negatively on legitimate request and concerns of Iraq, well, there is no way but to implement that decision.
JIM LEHRER: But why do you want the six Americans out of the country?
Aziz defends decision to expel Americans.
TARIQ AZIZ: Because a decision of the 29th said that we cannot any more tolerate the presence of the Americans as long as the American government is taking a hostile attitude against Iraq, preventing the lifting of sanctions, threatening the security of the country, and using those so-called experts in that treatment, that policy. This is not a United Nations policy. It's not indicative of the United Nations, and the U.N. experts should act according to the U.N. practice and U.N. behavior. So we raised this question in order to see a better treatment of Iraq in the sense, in the course of lifting the sanctions and in the respect of our sovereign concerns and security concerns.
JIM LEHRER: Do you plan to take similar action against those inspectors who are from the countries, the other countries, the other 14 countries that passed this resolution yesterday?
TARIQ AZIZ: Nobody else has covered with this decision--only welcome; they could stay; they could continue their work in Iraq normally.
JIM LEHRER: As you know, Mr. Butler, who's the head of this U.N. team, ordered the other 72 inspectors out tomorrow. What's your reaction to that?
TARIQ AZIZ: That's his decision. He bears a responsibility for that decision. It's not our decision. I told the secretary-general of the United Nations this morning that all the other members of the U.N. team could stay in Baghdad, conduct functions normally, and we'll fully cooperate with them.
Still threatening U-2 flights.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Butler also said today that the U.N. planned to have another U-2 reconnaissance flight over your country this weekend. What are the intentions of your country in reaction to that? In other words, are you going to try to shoot it down, or what might you try to do?
TARIQ AZIZ: Well, we made our position clear; that in those circumstances when the American government is preparing for a military aggression against Iraq we cannot tolerate the flight of a U.N., U.S. spy plane over our territory to update the information about our air defenses. So if he does that, if Butler sends or endorses this fight, it will be a grave mistake on his side, and he also bears responsibility for that.
JIM LEHRER: Did he, in fact, tell you today that they were going to have one of these flights this weekend?
TARIQ AZIZ: Yes, I think this was mentioned, and that is very wrong on his side. He should act as a U.N. official, not as an instrument in the hands of the Pentagon.
JIM LEHRER: Now, what is your reaction to U.S. Ambassador Richardson's comment today that there could be grave consequences for Iraq if this course continues?
"There isn't a more grave situation as the current situation..."
TARIQ AZIZ: Well, there isn't a more grave situation as the current situation because the sanctions have been imposed for seven years. There is no hope that the sanctions will be lifted, no matter what we do in the course of the implementation of U.N. resolutions, they say "that's enough," and they always threaten for more sanctions, for more punitive action taken against Iraq, so the situation is already grave. It has been grave for years, so what Mr. Richardson is saying does not scare us.
JIM LEHRER: Do you foresee the military conflict of some kind coming out of this?
TARIQ AZIZ: Could you repeat the question, please.
JIM LEHRER: Do you foresee military conflict between the United States and the U.N. and your country?
TARIQ AZIZ: Well, we are not seeking that, but the United States has already done that before without U.N. excuse, without U.N. endorsement. In 1993, they attacked us twice for reasons which were not related to the United Nations and UNSCOM business. They did the same last year, so it is a decision that could be taken by the American government any time when they think that that is useful for the popularity of the government or to enhance the status of the President or the Vice President and other officials in this country. That's unfortunate. It happened before. It could happen now and the future, no matter what the reason is.
JIM LEHRER: Is there any doubt in your mind, sir, that if Iraq shoots down an American airplane that the United States will retaliate?
TARIQ AZIZ: Well, I don't know. That will be their decision, but as far as we are concerned, we cannot accept their flight of a spy, of an American spy plane on those circumstances, as I said, to update information about our air defenses and about security facilities inside, in Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: So you're prepared to face the consequences of shooting down an American plane?
Iraq ready to protect itself.
TARIQ AZIZ: Well, we have to. When you are threatened, what else do you have? You have to defend yourself and protect yourself against any kind of aggression.
JIM LEHRER: Is there anything going on behind the scenes now to try to prevent this possible collision, this possible military conflict, or is everything that is being said being said in public as you are talking now?
TARIQ AZIZ: Well, I am not aware of any attempt in that regard. Maybe people are talking about it between themselves, but I personally am not aware of that.
JIM LEHRER: Nobody from Russia or France is talking to you, urging some kind of restraint, and, in consequence, going back to the United States, urging some kind of--nothing like that is going on?
TARIQ AZIZ: Well, I am not aware, as I said; I cannot say yes or no. To be honest, I am not aware of that. I am here in New York, and I don't have contact with the parties you mentioned.
JIM LEHRER: You are very experienced in this sort of thing. You were very much involved in the 1991 conflict between the United States and their coalition and your country. Do you feel the same kind of tenseness coming this time? Do you--what does your gut tell you that this may lead to?
TARIQ AZIZ: Well, I think the situation is different than in 1991. In 1991, they used the pretext of our presence in Kuwait, and they brought about a wide coalition against us. But now the situation is different, politically different, and the pretext being used for a new aggression is different, and I think the consequences and the sense of reactions on the international arena and in the region will be also different.
JIM LEHRER: Well, Mr. Aziz, thank you very much.
TARIQ AZIZ: A' Saalem. You're welcome.