Blix verdict brings US to brink of war (TELEGRAPH UK) By Toby Harnden in Washington 12/20/02)
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America stepped up its drive towards war last night, saying that
Saddam Hussein was in "material breach" of United Nations resolution
1441. At the same time it announced that it was doubling its forces
in the Gulf.
It gave its verdict on Iraq´s 12,000-page declaration on weapons of
mass destruction after Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector,
told the Security Council that the document contained little new.
Mr Blix said it was based largely on statements Iraq made during
inspections between 1991 and 1998, after which inspectors were forced
"There were a lot of open questions at the end of 1998. These have
not been answered by evidence in the new declaration.
"The absence of that evidence means that we cannot have confidence
that there are no remaining weapons of mass destruction. We will
continue to look for that in the inspections process." Colin Powell,
the American secretary of state, said the declaration represented
a "material breach", adding that it "totally fails to meet the
While stopping short of saying that this would be the final trigger
for conflict, Washington´s formal response was designed to force the
pace of preparations for war.
It also indicated that the days of the inspections were numbered.
A senior White House official said the verdict marked a turning point
in policy towards the Iraqi dictator and signalled that President
George W Bush was "ramping up" towards war.
John Negroponte, the American ambassador to the UN, said the
declaration "clearly shows that Iraq has spurned its last opportunity
to comply with its disarmament obligations".
He said: "It is truly unfortunate that Iraq has begun what was
supposed to be a new chapter in compliance with council resolutions
by falling back on the regime´s practice of omissions, evasions and
untruths." Its declaration, presented nearly two weeks ago, appeared
to be "one more act of deception in a history of lies from a defiant
Mr Negroponte said: "These are material omissions that, in our view,
constitute another material breach."
He added that America had asked for more frequent briefings from the
chief weapons inspector.
Mr Blix is due to give a definitive assessment of the declaration on
Jan 27 - a Security Council meeting that could turn out to be the
immediate precursor to war.
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said the declaration
represented "a very serious failure to comply" and that "a clear
warning has to go out to Iraq that they now have to co-operate fully
with the UN and its inspectors".
Mr Straw said that war was not inevitable but, through the
declaration, Iraq had pulled one "trigger".
He added: "They now, in a sense, have their finger on the other
America is alone in considering the declaration, which said that Iraq
had no weapons of mass destruction, as a "material breach" in itself.
Britain, France, Russia and China, the four other permanent members
of the Security Council, believe that Saddam has to impede the work
of inspectors to fall foul of the resolution.
This distinction, however, is unlikely to make any difference to the
final outcome because Washington and London are convinced that Saddam
is certain to try to impede the inspectors in the coming weeks.
Those weeks will be used by America to put its forces in place and
enlarge the number of allies providing both moral and practical
As Mr Blix was addressing the Security Council, Gen Tommy Franks, the
military commander in the Gulf, was at the White House presenting Mr
Bush with the latest Pentagon plans.
More than 50,000 ground troops are expected to be sent in addition to
that number in place or on their way. Britain is to send up to 20,000
soldiers. This, with air force and navy personnel, will bring the
total allied strength to around 130,000.
Some 15,000 American army and marine corps ground troops are in the
region already, most of them in Kuwait.
Iraq remained defiant. "This is the interpretation of the United
States and does not represent the interpretation of the whole
international community," said Muhammed S Ali, its deputy ambassador
to the UN. (© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002. 12/20/02)
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