Deep Divisions Remain on Iraq as Blix Reports to Security Council
Deep Divisions Remain on Iraq as Blix Reports to Security Council
By Patrick E. Tyler With Felicity Barringer
New York Times
Friday 28 February 2003
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 Iraq said today that it would comply with a United Nations demand to destroy an entire class of ballistic missiles. And Russia's foreign minister, Igor S. Ivanov, asserted that progress on disarmament in Iraq had stiffened Moscow's opposition to war to the point that it might veto any resolution that would hasten the onset of military action.
Hans Blix, a chief weapons inspector at the United Nations, said that destruction of the Al Samoud 2 missiles, "is to start tomorrow," according to Baghdad, "so maybe tomorrow evening or Sunday we will have more to say."
Mr. Blix's top deputy, Demetrius Perricos, was in Baghdad today to discuss "the pace of the destruction" with the Iraqis. He was to meet Iraqi officials on Saturday morning about possibly starting the destruction process later in the day, a spokesman for the inspectors, Hiro Ueki, said today.
Mr. Blix ordered the missiles' destruction by Saturday after his inspectors found that they exceeded the 93-mile-range limit imposed by the Security Council.
Iraq's last-minute agreement has served to confirm firmly-held positions among members of the Security Council on the next steps required to enforce Iraq's disarmament and will add to the jockeying for votes.
Mr. Ivanov of Russia, on a visit to Beijing, said Moscow would not support any resolution that opened the way for the use of force in Iraq and would use its veto "if necessary, in the interest of international stability."
France, a leader of the camp opposed to an invasion of Iraq, welcomed Baghdad's statement as "an important step in the disarmament of Iraq" and said it showed United Nations arms inspections were producing results.
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking after talks in Paris with his Greek counterpart George Papandreou, said:
"There is no reason to discontinue the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. We are opposed to the draft second resolution, as is a majority of the Security Council, and notably Russia."
In Madrid, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain dismissed Iraq's pledge to begin dismantling its missiles.
"The moment I heard earlier in the week that Saddam Hussein was saying he would not destroy the missiles was the moment I knew that later in the week he would announce, just before Dr. Blix reported, that he would indeed destroy these missiles," Mr. Blair said.
"This is not a time for games," Mr. Blair said at a news conference after talks with the Spanish prime minister, Jos Mar a Aznar. Mr. Hussein, he said, "knows perfectly well what he has to do."
Iraq told the United Nations on Thursday that it had agreed "in principle" to begin destroying the missiles. Today Mr. Blix said he had asked Bagdhad to clarify its stance, but added that eliminating the missiles was "a very significant piece of real disarmament."
Baghdad's decision was conveyed by letter to Mr. Blix as he completed a report concluding that Iraq had made a "very limited" response to the disarmament requirements set forth by the Security Council last November. Diplomats made the contents of the letter available.
The report, to be delivered to the Security Council today, appeared to offer some support for the Bush administration's claim that Mr. Hussein is not serious about disarming.
But Mr. Blix said later that he might rewrite his report in light of the progress made on Iraq's missiles.
In today's editions of USA Today, however, President Bush said: "My attitude about Saddam Hussein is that if he had any intention of disarming he would have disarmed."
"We will disarm him now," he declared.
"The rockets are just the tip of the iceberg," President Bush said on Thursday in an appearance with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. "The only question at hand is total, complete disarmament, which he is refusing to do," the president said, referring to Mr. Hussein.
At the same time, Iraq's announcement that it would destroy more than 120 Al Samoud 2 surface-to-surface missiles as a Saturday deadline approached indicated that Mr. Hussein was trying to head off a military assault by the United States and its allies.
But the allies were also maneuvering.
The British ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, was said by diplomats to have disclosed fresh intelligence in Thursday's closed Council session that Iraq continued to manufacture poison nerve gases and mustard gas.
In Washington, senior Bush administration officials claimed that an intense lobbying campaign was making progress toward securing 9 of the 15 Council votes for the American, British and Spanish resolution that would provide United Nations backing for military action.
President Bush telephoned President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday and made the case for war in a 17-minute conversation. "Putin said, `Our feeling is that we should give the inspectors more time,' " a senior administration official recounted. Mr. Bush said he disagreed.
The official said Mr. Putin replied, "We'll think about it." The official said the Russian response showed flexibility and was, in any case, "better than a sharp stick in the eye."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also spent Thursday lobbying top leaders and believes, according to a senior administration official, that all three African states on the Council, Angola, Guinea and Cameroon, will side with the United States when Washington presses for a vote in two weeks.
A senior administration official said he believed that among Pakistan, Mexico and Chile, Washington could count on two out of the three it would need to pass the war resolution.
France and Germany held the line in opposition to any immediate decision on war and pressed for more time for the United Nations inspection force.
During Thursday's closed session, the French ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabli re, asked how much legitimacy the Security Council would have if it authorized a war opposed "by the vast majority of the international community" and that, with the Bush administration's promise to proceed with or without Council support, "has been decided in any case?"
The prospect that Washington might win a slim majority authorizing war also weighed heavily on the White House and the Bush family, including the president's father, and close associates said there were deep concerns about the collapse of Western unity over Iraq.
"You cannot go to war without a consensus," one close associate said.
The sense of buildup and the diplomatic pressure from Washington for war authorization elevated the issue of the Samoud missiles. With the prospects for a war seeming increasingly likely, Mr. Hussein's decision to destroy the missiles would deny him their use. His failure to destroy them, however, would violate United Nations demands and hasten the onset of a war.
Chile and Mexico appeared to merge their positions on Thursday, chiding the five permanent members of the Council to come to agreement and take the pressure off the nonpermanent member states that have expressed growing aalarm about the divisions.
"We have indicated today that inspections cannot be eternal," said Ambassador Gabriel Vald s of Chile. "We want the inspectors to give us the plan of work, and we would like to step up those demands to Iraq that are crucial for the disarmament process."
The lobbying also continued in world capitals. John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, returned from Moscow, where significant emphasis is focused on convincing Mr. Putin to break with the French president, Jacques Chirac, the intellectual force behind the European opposition to war.
"If you pick off Russia, the dynamic changes," a senior administration official said.
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