Pres. Bush Says Iraq Must Work With U.N., Calls War Last Resort
The president said during an address in Prague ahead of a NATO summit, ”We now call an end to that game of deception and deceit and denial. Saddam Hussein has been given a very short time to declare completely and truthfully his arsenal of terror.”
At an earlier press conference with President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, Mr. Bush said the United States was prepared to lead a “coalition of the willing” if Iraq refuses to abandon its weapons programs but also repeated previous statements that he considers war a last resort.
“If the collective will of the world is strong, we can achieve disarmament peacefully,” the president said. “But one thing is certain, he’ll be disarmed, one way or the other, in the name of peace.”
Havel said his people would prefer that Iraq peacefully surrender its weapons of mass destruction.
“If, however, the need to use force were to arise, I believe NATO should give honest and speedy consideration to its engagement as an alliance,” he said.
Meanwhile, top U.N. officials in Baghdad said there have been positive signs from the Iraqis that inspectors will be able to make surprise checks on “special” weapons sites in the country.
Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix said Iraqi authorities didn’t challenge the right of weapons inspectors to make unannounced checks on Saddam’s so-called “special” sites, an issue that helped lead to the end of inspections in the 1990s.
But Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said Wednesday that Iraq would fully cooperate with the inspections but would prevent the U.N. team from gathering “intelligence.”
“Any demand or question or a manner of work that conforms with the objective of the inspectors who want to verify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction will be met with full cooperation, ” Ramadan told the private Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.
“But for demands which are clearly [meant] for intelligence or for other objectives that have nothing to do with the weapons of mass destruction, we will act in such a way so as to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and security,” he added.
Blix said the issue of special site access “wasn’t even discussed” since it is “settled by the resolution” recently passed by the U.N. Security Council and subsequently accepted by Iraq. The resolution returned inspectors after a four-year absence after Saddam Hussein agreed to give investigators free and unfettered access to his weapons facilities.
Blix and the U.N. nuclear control chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, left Iraq after two days of meetings with Iraqi officials. A team of U.N. investigators remained in the country to continue preparations for inspections that could begin as early as next week.
On Tuesday, Iraqi presidential adviser Amir al-Saadi said Iraq would meet a U.N. deadline of Dec. 8 to file a complete list of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs currently underway, although Blix said the Iraqis expressed concerns about having enough time to compile all of the necessary information.
In other developments, U.S. warplanes bombed three air defense communications facilities in southern Iraq Wednesday, after Iraqi air defenses fired surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery at U.S. and British planes according to U.S. Central Command.
The strikes come one day after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Washington would respond immediately to any attacks on American and British planes patrolling no-fly zones in Iraq regardless of whether the U.N. views the shootings as violations of Security Council resolutions.
“You can be absolutely certain we’ll not allow our aircraft to continue to be shot at with impunity. We intend to respond,” Rumsfeld told reporters Tuesday.