Skip to comments.Saddam's 'Cynical' Offer Is Rejected (US/UK)
Posted on 09/17/2002 5:50:59 PM PDT by blam
Saddam's 'cynical' offer is rejected
By Toby Harnden, Philip Sherwell, George Jones and Anton La Guardia
The United States and Britain promised last night to continue to press for a United Nations Security Council resolution against Iraq. They dismissed Saddam Hussein's offer to readmit arms inspectors as a cynical ploy.
France, Russia and China, the other three permanent members of the Security Council, welcomed Saddam's move and said a resolution was not now needed.
However, officials in Washington told journalists that contingency planning for war would continue.
President George W Bush did not respond directly to Iraq's offer but said in Tennessee: "It's time to determine whether or not they [the UN] will be a force for good and peace or an ineffective debating society."
Hans Blix, the UN's chief arms inspector, met Iraqi officials in New York last night for a preliminary discussion about the admission of inspectors for the first time in four years.
In an effort to keep up the pressure on Saddam, Pentagon officials said that the United States was discussing with Britain the possibility of basing up to six American B2 stealth bombers on Diego Garcia, the British territory in the Indian Ocean.
They also said they were pressing forward with plans to move the United States central command, which is overseeing preparations for war with Iraq, to Oman for an exercise in November.
Colin Powell, the United States secretary of state, said at the UN headquarters in New York that the letter containing Iraq's offer "should have been written long ago and did not acknowledge the error of its ways for the past 12 years".
Saddam was responding to pressure from President Bush in his speech to the UN general assembly last Thursday, Mr Powell said. "The only way to ensure that it is not business as usual, and to make sure that it is not a repeat of the past - it seems to me, anyway - is to put it in the form of a new UN resolution."
This view was closely echoed by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary. Speaking outside No 10 after meeting Tony Blair, he said: "Iraq has a long history of playing games. People are bound to be sceptical.
"This apparent offer to allow weapons inspectors to return 'without conditions' comes only four days after Iraq's deputy prime minister said precisely the opposite.
"Whatever it means, this offer has only come through the determination of the international community to stand firm against Saddam Hussein's threat. We must remain steadfast and keep up the pressure on Iraq by continuing to work on a new UN resolution."
Within hours of Iraq's announcement, Ali Muhsen Hamid, the Arab League ambassador in London suggested Iraq's offer of "unconditional" return of the inspectors had limits.
In a BBC Radio Four interview, he suggested Iraq would admit inspectors to military sites but not "civilian sites". But he later told The Telegraph that he had been misunderstood. There would be no formal exclusion, he said, but inspections could not go on indefinitely.
Sources in Baghdad said Saddam had "climbed down" after Arab neighbours and Russia persuaded him that this was the only way to avoid a crushing invasion.
He authorised the offer after an all-day joint session on Monday of his Ba'ath party's revolutionary command council, Iraq's most powerful body, and the country's cabinet. It was the first time the Iraqis has used the words "without conditions" in their long history of showdowns with the UN.
Sources close to the talks in Baghdad insisted that the term also meant that inspectors would have access to all sites that they wanted to visit.
Previous missions have been blocked from inspecting presidential complexes where they believed work was being conducted on chemical and biological weapons.
Senior Iraqi officials hoped that the move had wrong-footed the United States, leaving it and Britain isolated if they continued to threaten military action and demand a fresh UN resolution.
"The excuse used to launch an aggression has been totally blocked," Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, told a conference of international anti-sanctions campaigners in Baghdad. "We hope that the return of the inspectors will lead as soon as possible to the lifting of sanctions."
However, it was unclear whether Iraq had stopped the diplomatic momentum initiated by Mr Bush and neither France or Russia ruled out a new UN resolution.
The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said the Security Council "must now hold Saddam Hussein to his word".
After we administer a thermobaric enema to Saddam, inspections can proceed apace, indefinitely.
My bet is on the ineffective debating society. We're going in without the Vidkun Quislings and the Neville Chamberlains that infest the U.N. They'll find out President Bush is not bluffing.
All those sinecures flashed before their eyes.
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