Iraq Offers to Open Dialogue About Weapons Inspections
According to Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq’s U.N. ambassador, the effort amounted to self-defense through diplomacy.
“This is a political and diplomatic way to defend ourselves. They are always accusing us of not permitting those people and now we say we are ready to lay the ground to allow the inspectors,” Aldouri told Reuters.
“Iraq has in mind to see the inspectors back if all requirements are there,” he added. “The Iraqi side would like to see the whole picture as clear as possible so to reach a very clean inspection in the future, especially [the U.N.] declaring officially that Iraq is clean from any kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”
U.S. officials responded by saying further discussion of weapons inspections was not enough.
“It should be a very short discussion. What [Saddam Hussein] should say is, ‘Yes, I accept any time, anywhere, any place unfettered inspections,”‘ National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
McCormack also said any agreement on the inspection issue would not change the U.S. policy of pushing for a regime change in the country.
At the United Nations, a spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Iraqi move was welcomed, but warned the current proposal violated past U.N. Security Council rulings.
“[The Security Council] says that Iraq must first agree to admit the weapons inspectors. They would conduct on-site inspections for a period of 60 days and then report to the Security Council with a proposed program of work,” U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard explained.
Despite a lukewarm response from U.N. and U.S. officials, Russian authorities praised the offer as a major move.
“Moscow considers Iraq’s proposal to be an important step toward solving the present problems through diplomatic and political means in line with the existing U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
According to U.N. officials, Annan plans to discuss the Iraqi letter with security council members as early as Monday.
U.N. weapons inspectors have not been allowed in Iraq since 1998. Until the U.N. certifies that Iraq is free of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, severe economic sanctions will stay in effect.