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 Friday, March 14, 2003

  The Test of Wills on Iraq - The Countdown

Full text: UN security council resolution 1441 on Iraq

U.S. officials fear that once President Bush signals the U.S. is headed to war, Saddam Hussein will strike pre-emptively. But if the United States takes action to stop an Iraqi first strike, especially if they try to seize and protect the oil fields, U.S. officials admit they may end up starting the war itself. This new level of concern about Iraq is caused by an accumulation of intelligence including troubling new details

US's decision to not seek a vote on Britain's proposed resolution setting specific tests for Iraq to stave off a U.S.-led invasion would be a switch from President Bush's announcement last week that he wanted a formal accounting and each country in the council to show their cards.

Paris has outlined rival proposals to achieve disarmament in Iraq after the US and UK suggested that French "intransigence" was bringing war even closer. The announcement came after Paris rejected outright Britain's six "tests" for Iraqi leader

Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov said only UN-authorized international weapons inspectors have the authority to set conditions and deadlines for Iraq's disarmament. Asked to comment on a list of disarmament requirements being circulated at the UN by the United States and Great Britain, Lavrov said that under existing UN Security Council resolutions, the weapons inspectors must define the key unsettled disarmament issues and the UN Security Council must consider the Iraqi regime's progress on those issues 120 days after the council has endorsed them

In Baghdad, a diplomatic source said Iraq would send a report its disposal of VX nerve agent to United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix on Friday and another report on anthrax a few days later.The United States and Britain say Iraq has failed to account for hundreds of tons of the deadly agents which they believe it produced in the 1980s. Iraq said it destroyed all its stocks in 1992 but has so far failed to provide documents or witnesses

John Paul has insisted that war is a "defeat for humanity" and that a preventive strike against Iraq is neither legally nor morally justified. The unwavering stance has made the pope one of the most visible opponents of war in current circumstances, and a rallying point for peace groups and politicians who seize on his words counseling against war. Even those supportive of a U.S.-led strike, including the prime ministers of Britain, Spain and Italy, have recently lined up to see him, aware of his leadership role

Industry officials say Hussein's ouster would help level the playing field for U.S. and British firms that have been shut out of Iraq as Baghdad has negotiated with rivals from other countries — notably France, Russia and China, three leading opponents of war.A post-Hussein Iraq also would be a bonanza for the U.S.-dominated oil-services industry, which is in the business of rehabilitating damaged infrastructure, reversing declining output from aging fields and providing essential support work to drillers and explorers. A leader in that industry is Halliburton Co., where Dick Cheney was chief executive before becoming vice president.

Negotiations on a new United Nations resolution on disarming Iraq will extend until next Monday, British officials say. The UK officials said the United States had agreed that talks should continue - reversing their demand for a vote at the weekend by the 15-member UN Security Council.

The FBI is looking into the forgery of a key piece of evidence linking Iraq to a nuclear weapons program, including the possibility that a foreign government is using a deception campaign to foster support for military action against Iraq. The phony documents — a series of letters between Iraqi and Niger officials showing Iraq’s interest in equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons — came to British and U.S. intelligence officials from a third country. The identity of the third country could not be learned yesterday.

The world must act soon against Saddam Hussein or face a "Pearl Harbour" terrorist catastrophe, the Australian Prime Minister warned yesterday as he tried to persuade a sceptical nation of the need for war.In a televised speech fashioned to display the depth of his resolve on Iraq, Mr Howard said the prospect that Saddam could arm terrorists with weapons of mass destruction was a "direct, undeniable and lethal threat to Australia and its people".

The Australian Opposition and the minor parties denounced John Howard yesterday for failing to make the case for Australian participation in any war against Iraq and not coming clean on the country's commitment to the looming war.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri dismissed a British compromise proposal on a US-backed resolution in the UN Security Council on Thursday, calling it "an attempt to beautify a rejected aggressive project".

The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said the plan, which would give United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq a short extension, perhaps to March 24, did not address the key issue of seeking a peaceful end to the showdown with Iraq.The Russian foreign minister, Igor S. Ivanov, today repeated Russia's previously announced intention to veto any resolution at the Security Council that opened the way for military action.Germany, one of 10 temporary members of the 15-member Council, has taken a consistent position against war.

Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, on Tuesday called on government officials to leak documents to Congress and the press showing the Bush administration is lying in building its case against Saddam Hussein.Ellsberg, an ex-Marine and military analyst, said he held out hope that exposing alleged lies by the Bush administration could still avert an unjust war. He warned that whistleblowers may face ruin of their careers and marriages and be incarcerated. "Don't wait until the bombs start falling," Ellsberg said at a Tuesday press conference in Washington. "If you know the public is being lied to and you have documents to prove it, go to Congress and go to the press."


China on Thursday acknowledged blocking major powers from discussing the North Korea crisis at the United Nations, saying it was pushing instead for a dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.

New intelligence received by the United States has indicated North Korea may be preparing to test a ballistic missile capable of reaching the Japanese archipelago.

Colin Powell, in congressional testimony Thursday, re-affirmed the Bush administration's opposition to having face-to-face talks with North Korea over its nuclear program

Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee repeated their calls to the administration to heed the advice of regional allies and begin direct talks with North Korea to end the stand-off with that country.

The two most senior officers overseeing American military operations in South Korea said today that it was likely that North Korea would step up its provocations in a bid to gain financial aid and diplomatic attention from the United States. A senior State Department official said North Korea could produce highly enriched uranium as fuel for nuclear weapons within months not years, much earlier than many experts believed possible. That would mean that North Korea could produce weapons-grade material from both its uranium and plutonium programs in a short period of time.

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