Iraq issues defiant demands as it destroys illegal missiles

Hussein says U.N. must end its 1991 sanctions

March 09, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq resumed destroying its short-range Al Samoud 2 missiles yesterday and, in a further apparent attempt to exploit the deep divisions among the world's powers over war, issued a defiant list of demands to the United Nations.

Glossing over the negative aspects of the latest report by the weapons inspectors, a government statement issued from a meeting led by President Saddam Hussein and editorials in the government-controlled press all reached the same conclusion: that Iraq had been declared sufficiently free of weapons of mass destruction to warrant the cancellation of sanctions imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

The sense here was that the strong resistance by France, Russia and Germany to the use of force against Iraq revealed a growing consensus against the United States and Britain.

At the United Nations, diplomats said Britain was more interested than the United States in finding a compromise that might attract more international support for the new resolution the two countries put forward Friday. It would give Iraq until March 17 to disarm completely as demanded in Resolution 1441, passed unanimously last November.

"There is some room for maneuver," a British diplomat said. "But the Americans have far less patience than we do."

In Washington, Bush administration officials gave no indication they would entertain any compromise that would extend the deadline beyond March 17.

A the United Nations and in Washington, diplomats and Bush administration officials expressed growing concern that if the United States called for a vote on the resolution and lost it, the coalition led by America and Britain would go to war in apparent defiance of the Security Council.

Officials in Washington reported a debate over whether to let the U.N. vote proceed if it appears the United States would lose. They said there was no question that the vote should go ahead if the United States believes it can win at least nine votes, even if France or Russia vetoes the resolution.

"There's no shame in winning the vote and going ahead after a veto," said the official, who insisted on anonymity. "We could easily argue the French are frustrating the will of the council. The question is whether it is advisable to go ahead even if you are going to lose the vote."

President Bush, in his weekly radio address, took a far harder line than the U.N. weapons inspectors, declaring that Iraq "is still violating the demands of the United Nations by refusing to disarm." He dismissed the destruction of the Al Samoud missiles as "a public show of producing and destroying a few prohibited missiles."

In Iraq, the government destroyed six of the short-range Al Samoud missiles after a one-day hiatus, bringing the total destroyed under U.N. supervision in the past week to 40 - about one-third of Iraq's known stock of the missiles.

The Iraqi demands to the United Nations included a call to strip Israel of its weapons of mass destruction and to force it to abide by Security Council resolutions requiring its withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory. The government statement also said the United States and Britain should officially be branded "liars."

The statement by the Iraqi Cabinet said the United States was still trying to use the cover of Security Council reports to attack Iraq despite the cooperation detailed by weapons inspectors. Hans Blix, one of the chief U.N. inspectors, delivered a report Friday that included about 30 outstanding questions, mostly about the amount of chemical and biological weapons Iraq has produced and what happened to it all.

The Iraqi statement said that the Bush administration "wants to cover what it wants to do with allegations that Iraq did not implement Security Council resolutions."

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