Iraq Says No Point to Allowing U.N. Inspections
Taha Yassin Ramadan, in Damascus, Syria for meetings to shore up Arab support for Iraq, said it was pointless for his country to give in to international pressure to allow arms inspectors to re-enter.
“The U.S. administration … says day and night that the issue is not related to whether the inspectors return or not, it has to do with changing the regime by force,” Ramadan said. “This is an issue on which we shouldn’t waste our time.”
Iraq has not permitted weapons inspections since 1998 and has accused some of the U.N. inspectors of espionage. Iraqi officials have attended three negotiating sessions with the U.N. this year on the inspection question.
Ramadan said his country was seriously considering reports that the U.S. was weighing an attack to oust Saddam’s government, but said Iraq would still consider opening a dialogue with the U.S.
“There’s still room for diplomatic solutions to avert war with the United States,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency quoted Ramadan as saying.
Later Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney spoke out for the second time this week on Iraq, warning that Saddam Hussein wants to develop and use nuclear weapons. Cheney said the Bush administration will “take whatever action is necessary” to defend American security and freedom.
On Monday, Cheney said there was no doubt that Iraq was amassing weapons of mass destruction to use against the U.S. and its allies. The vice president said that not acting against Iraq was riskier than the prospect of the U.S. acting alone.
Several world leaders have voiced opposition to the proposed U.S. strike. On Thursday, French President Jacques Chirac sharply criticized the potential move, saying he was concerned by what he called a “temptation to seek to legitimize the use of unilateral and preemptive force.”
Chirac said mounting such an attack without the backing of the U.N. Security Council would run counter to international law.
Leaders from countries like China, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have also voiced concerns and called for restraint.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the U.S. Senate called on President Bush to seek congressional approval before launching an operation in Iraq. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called for a full congressional debate on the Iraq question, telling reporters the administration can’t send troops to war with just “a wink and a nod to Congress.”
The continuing congressional rancor over Iraq comes after word that legal advisers informed Mr. Bush that Congress’ approval of the 1990-1991 war to force Iraq out of Kuwait gives the Bush administration the authority it needs to enter Iraq and oust Saddam. Mr. Bush has said that regardless of the legal opinion he would consult with congressional leaders before launching any operation.