Washington sidesteps UN in search for WMDs

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Posted by Tony from 66-3-112-40-la-01.cvx.algx.net ( on Thursday, April 17, 2003 at 11:57PM :

Washington sidesteps UN in search for WMDs

Odai Sirri

The Bush Administration is in a conundrum. The United States has called for an end to economic sanctions that have plagued Iraq for almost 13 years. To end the sanctions however, the UN Security Council must approve such a resolution. Russia though has said that it wants UN inspectors to confirm Iraq was clear of weapons of mass destruction before it will vote to remove sanctions.

Almost one month has passed since the start of the war on Iraq, and the United States has yet to find a 'smoking gun'. ‘Don’t worry,’ is the message from Washington. The eerie sense of calm from the US State Department though may be justified if taking into account recent remarks from former CIA analysts.

“Some of my colleagues are virtually certain that there will be some
US Secretary of State Colin Powell

weapons of mass destruction found, even though they might have to be planted,” said retired CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern. He told the AFP that he believes that some amount of banned weapon will be found but not, “by any stretch [that] would justify the charge of a threat against the US or anyone else.”

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has a different viewpoint. On Thursday, Powell told PBS that he was “reasonably sure” that proof would be discovered. “We are quite confident of our intelligence,” he said.

With each passing day analysts have begun to openly question if the war on Iraq will be the first time a war has ended without full vindication of the cause.

Earlier in the day, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said his inspectors could be back in Iraq in as little as two weeks, provided the Security Council gives approval for a resumption of inspections.

Most of the 15-member Security Council would like to see UN inspectors return to Iraq and complete their work-which was abruptly interrupted by the US desire to go to war. In an interview today with the BBC, Blix said the UN inspectors are ready to return to Iraq as soon as the Security Council gives the go-ahead.

Blix, who is due to appear in front of the Security Council on 22 April suggested that Iraq may have been telling the truth about its alleged weapons of mass destruction programme. Blix said that he is “perhaps more inclined to believe” Baghdad now, rather than before the US launched its attack.

“We have never claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, although we could not rule it out. Now we will see if London and Washington were right,” he said.

Thanks, but we’ll go it alone

But in a move that may frustrate the international community, the US has signalled that they would rather see its own hand-picked inspectors in Iraq.

A US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that there are already some US inspectors in Iraq examining suspect sites around the country. There are “approximately 10 former UN inspectors and personnel applying their experience and expertise to the
French President Jacques Chirac (L) and United Nations Secretary General Ghanaian Kofi Annan answer journalists' questions 17 April 2003
effort,” the official stated.

The official admitted though that the inspectors are Americans. He later added that over two dozen sites had been visited since the start of the war, and that “the pace of such visits is expanding.”

The controversial move may prove to be problematic due to the lack of credibility that the United States has in the Arab world. The US was earlier accused of using the UN inspectors as spies on Iraq under former chief inspector Richard Butler’s tenure from 1998 to 1999.

Irrespective of what happens in coming weeks in terms of inspections, the US finds itself in a race against the clock. As each day passes without any evidence of chemical or biological weapons, public irritation increases. Much of the international community also prefers to see the United Nations play a larger role in rebuilding Iraq, economically and socially.

To begin the rebuilding process however, sanctions must be removed. Ironically, to remove the US-led sanctions the US will need the support of the UN, the same UN that the US seems to be jockeying out of the picture.

-- Tony
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