U.S. Calls Iraqi Warhead Discovery "Troubling"
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said the discovery of the 11 empty warheads designed to carry chemical weapons at a storage area south of Baghdad shows that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is not adhering to U.N. disarmament guidelines.
“Under the U.N. resolution, Saddam has an obligation to disarm,” Fleischer said. “It has become increasingly clear that he is not doing so.”
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Friday he was “not worried” that the discovery will spark a U.S. military strike. Blix said he was unsure whether Iraq had listed the warheads in its 12,000-page weapons declaration submitted to the U.N. in December. Iraqi officials on Thursday said the warheads had been reported in the document.
Blix also said inspectors remained uncertain whether Iraq possessed banned chemical or biological weapons.
“There is not yet confidence, there is not yet certainty that all the chemical and biological weapons and missiles are gone and that all the equipment is gone,” Blix told reporters. “And it is above all for Iraq to demonstrate that everything has been done away with.”
Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei met with French President Jacques Chirac Friday to discuss inspection efforts. Chirac said France would support the two as they ask the U.N. Security Council to give investigators more time to let the inspections run their course.
“The inspectors have asked for more time,” Chirac said at a press briefing following the meeting. “Wisdom obliges us to respond to their request and give them the necessary time to be able to deliver serious conclusions which can convince the international community.”
Meanwhile, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein took to the airwaves Friday, calling on Iraqis defend their country against a possible U.S. attack.
“The people of Baghdad have resolved to compel the Mongols of this age to commit suicide on its walls,” Saddam said, comparing the U.S. to Mongol fighters who attacked Baghdad in 1258. “Everyone who tries to climb over its walls … will fail in his attempt.”
The Iraqi leader said his nation was prepared to fend off a U.S. strike.
“We have determined and planned to defeat the aggressors. We have mobilized our abilities, including those of the army, people and leadership,” Saddam said.
The 40-minute televised address came on the 12th anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War, launched to expel Iraqi forces from neighboring Kuwait.