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12/28/02 - IRAQ’S NEXT STEP - 2002-12-30

One of the key conditions of the Gulf War cease-fire in 1991 was verification of Iraqi disarmament of its weapons of mass destruction. But in 1998, Iraq effectively forced out United Nations weapons inspectors. In November of 2002, the U-N Security Council adopted Resolution fourteen-forty-one. It required Iraq to readmit the inspectors and submit a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of its weapons of mass destruction programs.

Iraq’s response has been to provide a catalogue of recycled information and flagrant omissions. As U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “We are disappointed but not deceived. This declaration is consistent with the Iraqi regime’s past practices. We have seen this game again and again -- an attempt to sow confusion and buy time, hoping the world will lose interest. This time,” said Mr. Powell, “the game is not working. This time, the international community is concentrating its attention and increasing its resolve as the true nature of the Iraqi regime is revealed again.”

Secretary of State Powell said, “Our path for the coming weeks is clear.” First, we must continue to audit and examine the declaration and understand the full extent of the Iraqi regime’s failure to meet its disclosure obligation. Second, said Mr. Powell, “the inspectors should give high priority to conducting interviews with scientists and other witnesses outside of Iraq, where they can speak freely.” Under the terms of U-N resolution fourteen-forty-one, Iraq must provide immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted, and private access to officials and other key individuals, who at the discretion of weapons inspectors, may be interviewed inside and outside Iraq. “Third, the U-N inspectors should intensify their efforts inside Iraq.” And fourth, the U.S. will continue to consult with allies and members of the U-N Security Council on how to compel Iraqi compliance.

As Secretary of State Powell put it, “There is no question that Iraq continues its pattern of noncooperation, its pattern or deception, its pattern of dissembling, its pattern of lying. And if that is going to be the way they continue through the weeks ahead, then we’re not going to find a peaceful solution to this problem.”