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White House Dismisses Iraqi Offer
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 16, 2002 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- The White House dismissed an Iraqi offer Monday to let weapons inspectors return there unconditionally, calling it a tactical move that did not change the Bush administration's desire to remove Saddam Hussein.
The White House released a written statement that called the offer "a tactical step by Iraq in hopes of avoiding strong U.N. Security Council action."
"As such, it is a tactic that will fail," spokesman Scott McClellan said in the statement.
"This is not a matter of inspections. It is about disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's compliance with all other Security Council resolutions," McClellan said in Washington.
The administration still is demanding a decree from the United Nations that would make plain that the organization will enforce the 16 resolutions Saddam has broken, McClellan said. The statement did not mention the White House's previous insistence that Iraq allow inspectors to go anywhere in the country, at any time.
It demanded a "new, effective U.N. Security Council resolution that will actually deal with the threat Saddam Hussein poses to the Iraqi people, to the region and to the world."
Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.N. Security Council is moving toward the U.S. position on Iraq, but France objected strongly to the Bush administration's insistence that Saddam must go.
As Powell consulted with council members, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, working with Iraqi and Arab League officials, came up with a letter pledging that Iraq would let U.N. weapons inspectors return unconditionally.
Annan credited President Bush for the Iraqi reversal of policy. He said the president has "galvanized the international community" with his speech last Thursday.
Earlier, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said, "We have one goal, which is the fight against proliferation" of weapons of mass destruction.
"There has been talk about working for regime change," de Villepin said. "This is not included in the mandate of the United Nations. If we begin discussing it, where will it end? It's a totally different process."
De Villepin spoke during a luncheon with reporters.
The goal of removing Saddam from power was adopted during President Clinton's tenure, and President Bush, pursuing the objective, is threatening to use force to achieve it. The U.S. policy is that disarmament in Iraq, as ordered by U.N. Security Council resolutions, will not be possible so long as Saddam remains in power, with or without renewed U.N. inspections.
A broad consensus appears to be developing in support of a resolution demanding that Iraq accept the unconditional return of weapons inspectors in the next several weeks. It was not clear whether the proposed Iraqi letter being discussed Monday would meet the council's requirements.
Five days after Bush demanded in a speech at the United Nations that the organization stand up to Iraq, Powell said he was absolutely sure of continued progress toward approval of a new resolution.
"The political dynamic has changed, and there is a great deal of pressure now being placed on Iraq to come into compliance with the U.N. mandates of the last 12 years," Powell said, meeting with reporters.
He said council members are only beginning to consider what a new resolution might say.
Powell met Monday with delegates from several Security Council countries, including Britain, Colombia and Mexico. Also planned was an evening meeting with a fourth Council member, Syria.
The administration favors a resolution that not only would mandate return of inspectors with full access to all areas of Iraq but also would permit the use of force should Iraq refuse.
That stand goes beyond what France would be willing to accept. De Villepin said the resolution should be limited only to the need for the return of inspectors. If Iraq should refuse, he said, the Council should reconvene to debate what comes next.
De Villepin suggested that three weeks would be a reasonable amount of time for Saddam to respond to a Security Council demand for the inspectors' return.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday that Bush has not decided to go to war.
At Dubuque, Iowa, the president pressed his case for deposing Saddam. Outside the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, he called the Iraqi a "tyrant (who) must be dealt with." About 100 demonstrators held signs that read, "Drop Bush Not Bombs" and "Please No War in Iraq."
Bush issued a fresh challenge to the United Nations to show resolve against the Iraqi leader, whom Bush tried to link, if only in rhetoric, to the al-Qaida terrorists accused of pulling off the Sept. 11 attacks last year.
The war on terror is more than hunting down al-Qaida, Bush said. "It also means dealing with true and real threats that we can foresee. One of the most dangerous threats America faces is a terrorist network teaming up with some of the world's worst leaders who develop the world's worst weapons," he said.
"If Iraq's regime continues to defy us and the world, (the United States) will move deliberately yet decisively to hold Iraq to account," with or without the United Nations, Bush said.
Before leaving the White House early Monday, Bush telephoned Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and spoke for about 10 minutes on Iraq and the war on terror.
Associated Press writer Dafna Linzer from the United Nations contributed to this report.
On the Net:
U.N. Security Council: http://www.un.org/Docs/scinfo.htm
By GEORGE GEDDA Associated Press Writer
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