World leaders welcomed President Bush’s intention to provide more evidence that Iraq is deceiving inspectors about its weapons programs. But the offer did not change anyone’s position on a possible war against Iraq.
Bush said Secretary of State Colin Powell will brief the United Nations Security Council next week on Iraq’s refusal to disarm. Powell will present evidence that the White House says shows Iraq is cleaning up suspect sites and possesses mobile biological weapons labs. He is also expected to show links between Iraq and al-Qaeda.
In Baghdad, a senior official said the speech was filled with “cheap lies” about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. “Banned weapons are not small objects that Iraq can hide,” Lt. Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, head liaison to U.N. arms inspectors, said on Iraqi TV. “Iraq has gotten rid of all these weapons.”
Officials rejected Bush’s allegation of past or potential links between Iraq and the Sept. 11 terrorists. “There’s no connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq,” said lawmaker Hazem Bajilan, a member of the National Assembly.
In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair, perhaps Bush’s strongest ally on the Iraq issue, told his Parliament that “at the very first meeting I had with President Bush back in February 2001, I said that weapons of mass destruction is an issue, and we have to confront them.”
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is due to meet President George W Bush on 31 January to discuss the Iraq crisis.
Both leaders have said that they do not believe Iraq has any intention of disarming in accordance with Security Council resolution 1441 and that they are prepared to launch a military campaign to ensure Iraq does so with or without UN backing.
Adopted on 8 November, resolution 1441 is designed to force Iraq to give up all suspected weapons of mass destruction.
But at any point, the inspectors can decide that their work is being obstructed and make a report to that effect.
Washington and London have already invoked the phrase that could trigger a war, accusing Iraq of being in “material breach” of resolution 1441 in a document detailing what weapons programmes it says it has.
It had been thought that the US and UK would go back to the Security Council to seek authorisation for military action.
Photo: Formal President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair shake hands after their press conference in the East Room of the White House on Friday November 12, 2004. White House photo by Paul Morse.