Britain Accuses Iraq of "Obvious Falsehood" in Declaration
Although the U.K. is continuing to analyze the Iraqi document, Foreign Minister Jack Straw accused Iraq of failing to account for numerous chemical and nerve agent stockpiles.
“This will fool nobody,” Straw said in a statement. “If Saddam persists in this obvious falsehood, it will become clear that he has rejected the pathway to peace laid down in [United Nations] Resolution 1441.”
The U.N. resolution ordered Iraq to report all weapons of mass destruction programs, components and plans including those that might also have civilian use.
Straw said that U.N. weapons inspectors should step up their efforts to confirm or refute the Iraqi claims put forward in the declaration.
“[W]e have always said that we would want the declaration tested by hard questions and robust inspections,” Straw said. “Saddam can be in no doubt by now that Resolution 1441 offers him the final opportunity to comply honestly and openly.”
The British statement appeared to echo growing concern in the White House that the Iraqi declaration may amount to a breach of the U.N. resolution. If the U.S. accuses the Iraqis of breaking the agreement, it could pave the way for military action against the Persian Gulf state.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters Wednesday that President Bush was concerned about the lack of information in the report and was discussing the issue with his national security team.
“We have learned much about the declaration although the review is not complete,” Fleischer said. “The president is concerned about omissions in the declaration and about problems in the declaration.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday the U.S. was not satisfied by the Iraqi report, but would not discuss specifics.
“We’ll withhold making a final judgment or final statement until we have completed our analysis, completed our discussions,” Powell said.
Fleischer confirmed that talks within the administration were continuing.
“The United States will continue to push the very deliberate approach in dealing with the issue and the potential consequences,” he said.
The U.S. is expected to release its official response to the Iraqi dossier later this week.
At the U.N., chief weapons inspector Hans Blix was set to report his team’s analysis of the report to the Security Council on Thursday. Both Straw and Fleischer said their countries wanted to hear the assessment of the international inspectors before considering any next steps.