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News, 12-19/02/03 (4) FINGER TRYING TO POINT AT IRAQ * CIA Chief Testifies on Security Threats * Powell is flawless - inside a media bubble * Iraqi dissident: Saddam has no nukes, but... INSPECTION PROCESS * Blix Gives Mixed Picture of Iraqi Disarming Effort * Britain and US unmoved as Blix calls for more time over Iraq * U.S. to Seek Tests to Show That Iraq Resists Disarming * American U-2 Plane Makes 1st Iraq Flight FINGER TRYING TO POINT AT IRAQ http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/bw-cong/2003/feb/12/021207632.html * CIA CHIEF TESTIFIES ON SECURITY THREATS by John J. Lumpkin Las Vegas Sun, 12th February WASHINGTON (AP): CIA Director George Tenet testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday about national security threats, a day after warning Congress that al-Qaida may strike both in the United States and on the Arabian peninsula as early as this week. Tenet told a Senate panel that a new audiotape purportedly of Osama bin Laden could be a signal for upcoming attacks. He said bin Laden messages in October and November were such signals. Tenet said the tape appears to be designed to raise the confidence of bin Laden supporters and to get them to do more. Intelligence information pointing at U.S. and Arab targets led to last week's raising of the national terror alert level to "orange," the second highest level of five, Tenet said Tuesday. The information came from "multiple sources with strong al-Qaida ties," he said, without providing details. "The intelligence is not idle chatter on the part of terrorists and their associates," Tenet said. "It is the most specific we have seen, and it is consistent with both our knowledge of al Qaida's doctrine and our knowledge of plots this network - and particularly its senior leadership - has been working on for years." The information pointing to imminent attacks was gathered in the United States and overseas, said FBI Director Robert Mueller, who joined Tenet and other intelligence chiefs Tuesday to brief the Senate Intelligence Committee in an annual public session on threats to national security. The CIA director said the information suggests the attack may involve a "dirty bomb" - a weapon that spreads radioactive material over a wide area - or chemical or poison weapons. Officials last week worried the attack could be timed to coincide with the hajj, a Muslim holy period this week. Mueller and Tenet said the U.S. government has no specific information pointing conclusively to where, when or how terrorists would strike. They said raising the national alert level - and taking security measures at government and business centers - makes it more difficult for the terrorists to carry out an attack. Mueller and Tenet said al-Qaida is damaged but still dangerous. Mueller called it "clearly the most urgent threat to U.S. interests." It has a strong presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan and is developing a presence in Iran and Iraq, Tenet said. The FBI suspects there are "several hundred" Muslim extremists in this country who focus mainly on fund raising, recruitment and training, Mueller said. But he said the greatest threat to Americans at home are "al-Qaida cells in the United States that we have not identified." Some of these cells have probably been in the United States since well before the Sept. 11 attacks, he said. "The enemies we face are resourceful, merciless and fanatically committed to inflicting massive damage on our homeland, which they regard as a bastion of evil," Mueller said. Tenet had little information Tuesday morning on a new audio message attributed to Osama bin Laden, which aired later in the day on the Arab television station Al-Jazeera. Some previous recordings of the al-Qaida chief have served as preludes to terrorist attacks. The CIA chief also repeated many of Secretary of State Colin Powell's statements last week to the United Nations regarding Iraq's efforts to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and linking al-Qaida supporters to the Iraqi government. Tenet said the key link between Baghdad and al-Qaida is Abu Musab Zarqawi, a senior associate of bin Laden. He said about two dozen of Zarqawi's followers remain in Baghdad, where Zarqawi spent two months last summer. All are members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group that has merged with al-Qaida, Tenet said. But he said he has no evidence suggesting Iraq has any operational control over Zarqawi's group or al-Qaida. Echoing Bush administration policy-makers, Tenet and the other intelligence chiefs offered little hope that U.N. inspections would prompt Iraq to disarm, saying Saddam is intent upon and capable of circumventing the inspections. Tenet also said U.S. intelligence has given U.N. inspectors all of its information on what it believed were Iraqi weapons sites. CIA officials declined to say how many of those sites the inspectors have visited. Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, predicted Saddam would lash out in many directions if attacked. "I expect him to pre-emptively attack the Kurds in the north, conduct missile and terrorist attacks against Israel and U.S. regional or worldwide interests - perhaps using WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and the regime's links to al-Qaida," Jacoby said in prepared remarks. "Saddam is likely to employ a scorched-earth strategy. ... We should expect him to use WMD on his own people." Associated Press writers Ken Guggenheim and Curt Anderson contributed to this report. http://www.jordantimes.com/Wed/opinion/opinion3.htm (available online for one week only) * POWELL IS FLAWLESS - INSIDE A MEDIA BUBBLE by Norman Solomon Jordan Times, 19th February THERE'S no doubt about it: Colin Powell is a great performer, as he showed yet again at the UN Security Council the other day. On television, he exudes confidence and authoritative judgement. But Powell owes much of his touted credibility to the fact that he is functioning inside a media bubble that protects him from direct challenge. Powell doesn't face basic questions like: ‹ You cite Iraq's violations of UN Security Council resolutions to justify the US launching an all-out war. But you're well aware that American allies like Turkey and Israel continue to violate dozens of Security Council resolutions. Why couldn't other nations claim the right to militarily "enforce" the Security Council's resolutions against countries that they'd prefer to bomb? ‹ You insist that Iraq poses a grave threat to the other nations of the Middle East. But, with the exception of Israel, no country in the region has made such a claim or expressed any enthusiasm for a war on Iraq. If Iraq is a serious threat to the region, why doesn't the region feel threatened? ‹ You say that the Iraqi regime is committed to aggression. Yet Iraq hasn't attacked any country for more than 12 years. And just eight days before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, the US envoy to Baghdad gave what appeared to be a green light for the invasion when she met with Saddam Hussein. An Iraqi transcript of the meeting quotes Ambassador April Glaspie as saying: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasise the instruction ... that Kuwait is not associated with America." Mr Powell, why don't you ever mention such information? ‹ Washington tilted in favour of Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980s. Like other US officials, you emphasise that Saddam Hussein "gassed his own people" and used chemical weapons against Iran, but you don't talk about the intelligence data and other forms of assistance that the United States provided to help Iraq do those things. If the history of Baghdad's evil deeds is relevant, why aren't facts about US complicity also relevant? ‹ When you warn that the UN Security Council "places itself in danger of irrelevance" if it fails to endorse a US-led war on Iraq, aren't you really proclaiming that the United Nations is "relevant" only to the extent that it does what the US government wants? If Powell faced such questions on a regular basis, his media halo would begin to tarnish. Instead, floating inside a media bubble, he moves from high-level meetings to speeches to news conferences where tough questions are rare. And when Powell appears as a guest on American media outlets, he doesn't need to worry that he'll encounter interviewers who'll challenge his basic assumptions. Tacit erasure of inconvenient history ‹ including his own ‹ is integral to the warm relationship between Powell and US news media. There's a lot to erase. For instance, in January 1986, serving as a top aide to Pentagon chief Caspar Weinberger, he supervised the transfer of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA, and then sought to hide the transaction from Congress and the public. No wonder; almost half of those missiles had become part of the Iran-Contra scandal's arms-for-hostages deal. As President Reagan's national security adviser, Powell worked diligently on behalf of the Contra guerrillas who were killing civilians in Nicaragua. In December 1989, Powell ‹ at that point the head of the joint chiefs-of-staff ‹ was a key player behind the invasion of Panama. The Gulf War catapulted Powell to the apex of American political stardom in early 1991. When he was asked about the Iraqi death toll from that war, Powell said that such numbers didn't interest him. At the UN on Feb. 5, in typical fashion, Powell presented himself as an implacable foe of terrorism ‹ much as he did on Sept. 11, 2001, when he denounced "people who feel that with the destruction of buildings, with the murder of people, they can somehow achieve a political purpose". While aptly condemning the despicable hijackers who murdered thousands of people that day, Powell was also using words that could be applied to a long line of top officials in Washington. Including himself. At this point, it seems that only a miracle could prevent the Bush administration from going ahead with its plans for a horrific attack on Iraq, sure to kill many thousands of civilians. The US leaders will demonstrate their evident belief that, in Powell's apt words, "with the destruction of buildings, with the murder of people, they can somehow achieve a political purpose". To the extent that the media bubble around them stays airtight, Powell and his colleagues are likely to bask in national acclaim. The writer has a syndicated column on media and politics. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times. http://www.philstar.com/philstar/News200302192604.htm * IRAQI DISSIDENT: SADDAM HAS NO NUKES, BUT... by Jarius Bondoc The Philippine Star, 19th February Saddam Hussein has no nuclear arms, but is hiding thousands of tons of chemical and biological weapons ingredients. So swears an Iraqi nuclear chemist whom the despot had tortured and jailed for 11 years for refusing to help make an atom bomb. Dr. Hussain Al-Shahristani, once the chief adviser of Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission, told The STAR in an exclusive interview that Allied bombers and UN inspectors effectively had destroyed all of Saddam's nuclear facilities and components from 1991 to 1995. He insisted, though, that Saddam has yet to account for tons of mustard gas, tabun and sarin nerve agents that Iraq used in its eight-year war with Iran in the '80s. Upon his defeat in the Gulf war of 1991, Saddam admitted to buying 3,080 tons of mustard gas, 250 tons of tabun and 812 tons of sarin from Western firms. UN inspectors discovered and destroyed only 600 tons of mustard gas, 30 of tabun and 70 of sarin before Saddam expelled them in 1998. New inspectors led by Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency chief Moha-med AlBaradei have yet to find the balance. Shahristani said Saddam continues to use the chemical weapons on Iraqi dissidents, mainly Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south and east. Shahristani is more worried about the lethal VX nerve agent that Saddam was able to buy from the West in 1987-88, after the UN declared him in breach of the 1925 Geneva Protocol on chemical weapons. He said Saddam produced 250 tons of VX, none of which past or present UN teams have found. One-ml of VX is enough to kill a human, Shahristani warned. Shahristani would not comment on evidence presented last week by US State Secretary Colin Powell to the UN Security Council about nuclear weapons possibly in Saddam's hands. He explained, though, that Saddam never completed his nuclear program. "Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990 in the belief that in a few months he would have the bomb and then the world could do nothing," Shahristani said. "They were very close, but Saddam was wrong." He noted that despite Blix and AlBaradei's presence, Saddam was able to import last month 280 missile engines, to which chemical and biological warheads can be installed. Now the head of the Iraqi Refugee Aid Council (IRAC), Shahristani also doubted reports of close ties between Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda Islamic extremists. "Saddam, as Baathist party chief, hates even moderate Islamic religionists," Shahristani said. "He has destroyed many mosques in Iraq to suppress Shiite schools, so the al-Qaeda is unlikely to deal with him." The scientist nonetheless called for UN help to depose Saddam "so that Iraq can rebuild democracy." The Asian Institute of Management invited Shahristani to speak to Manila executives about Saddam's arms and atrocities. He was scheduled to meet with US embassy officials yesterday. Iraqi secret police arrested Shahristani in 1979 at Tuwaitha, Iraq's atomic research center, on suspicion of helping sabotage nuclear energy materials it was then buying from France. Confessing to nothing despite severe daily beatings, he was sent to solitary confinement until Sept. The next year, when Saddam's half-brother Barzan Tikriti tried to persuade him into building a nuclear bomb. Shahristani refused, and Saddam had him thrown to Baghdad's infamous Abu Graib torture prison. In the confusion from Allied bombings in Feb. 1991, he managed to escape. A prison trustee who had befriended him whisked him out of his cell one night, dressed him in police garb, and pretended to be his driver as they sped out in an officer's car. Saddam has since been after him with assassins, insulted by the manner of his escape. Shahristani first fled with his Canadian wife and three children to Iraq's Kurdistan region, and then to Iran. After assisting refugee camps for five years at the Iraq-Iran border, he set up IRAC in London for funding. At 60, he is a living testament to Saddam's brutality against his own people. "I knew him well," Shahristani explained his refusal to make the bomb. "I knew all his weapons would be used against the Iraqi people." Apart from the nerve gas that Saddam used to kill 60,000 Iranian soldiers and civilians in the '80s and 27,000 Iraqi dissidents, Shahristani said, the despot has yet to show proof that he truly destroyed his biological weapons. Iraq has anti-personnel and anti-crop agents. Saddam admitted to producing and fitting into munitions: ‹ 19,000 liters of concentrated botulinum, which causes acute muscular paralysis and death within days; ‹ 8,500 liters of concentrated anthrax, a bacteria that kills within days to weeks after ingestion or inhalation; ‹ 2,200 liters of concentrated aflatoxin, which causes liver cancer; ‹ gas gangrene, which eats into the skin and causes rotting of flesh; ‹ ricin, a castor bean derivative that chokes blood circulation; and ‹ wheat smut, a moldy growth that can destroy vast firleds of wheat. When past inspectors demanded proof of destruction, Saddam gave none. They neutralized only five of 40 known germ-warfare laboratories. Saddam first went for a nuclear bomb by transforming the Tuwaitha atomic energy center into weapons research. Israel got wind of it and bombed the institute in 1981. Jafar Dhia Jafar, once Shahristani's closest friend at Tuwaitha and fellow-prisoner at Graib, led the rebuilding of a new facility at Tarmiya. Called Petrochemical 3 for disguise, it was in a complex of 50 buildings on three square kms of desert. US spy satellites completely missed to identify it as a weapons site for bombing in 1991. Rehabilitated as deputy head of atomic research and minister of industrialization, Jafar slyly avoided the most advanced nuclear technology using plutonium. Instead he mined uranium in the eastern desert and bought stocks from Germany and France at the height of the Iran-Iraq war. He copied the researches of the Manhattan Project, openly available in libraries, whose outputs were the bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Parallel facilities were put up at Al Atheer, Al Furat, Rashdiya and Taji to design and produce missiles for enriched fissile uranium. Allied jets blasted these at the height of the Gulf war. The UN destroyed the Tarmiya complex soon afterwards. INSPECTION PROCESS http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&cid=564&ncid=564&e=1&u=/nm/2003 02 * BLIX GIVES MIXED PICTURE OF IRAQI DISARMING EFFORT by Evelyn Leopold Yahoo, 14th February UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - In a crucial and dramatic report to the Security Council, Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix on Friday told Iraq to "squarely tackle" serious questions on its stocks of anthrax, the nerve agent VX and long-range missiles, some of which he declared illegal. But Blix, unlike in his previous harsh report, gave a mixed picture of Iraq's efforts to disarm, giving fodder to Security Council members, such as France, which want inspections to continue and the United States and Britain, which say war may be the only recourse to force Iraq to disarm. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin immediately told the Council inspections needed more time. "The use of force is not justified at this time. There is an alternative to war -- disarming Iraq through inspections," he said. With foreign ministers from 10 nations listening in the council chamber, Blix said there was no evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, although he could not exclude this. Blix said that an arms declaration submitted by Iraq in December omitted data needed to account for past stocks of anthrax, the nerve agent VX as well as on long-range missiles "Although I can understand that it may not be easy for Iraq in all cases to provide the evidence needed, it is not the task of the inspectors to find it," he said. "Iraq itself must squarely tackle this task and avoid belittling the questions." Blix also cast doubt on some intelligence submitted by Secretary of State Colin Powell. He also questioned a section of Powell's evidence to the Security Council on Feb. 5, saying that two satellite images shown in his presentation did not prove that Iraq was clearing the site of forbidden munitions. "The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of an imminent inspection," Blix said. Hours before the inspectors were due to speak, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein issued a decree banning the import and production of weapons of mass destruction, which will be followed up by legislation. This had been requested by the council for a decade and more recently by Blix, along with U-2 spy plane overflights and private interviews with scientists, which Baghdad has already conceded. The United States reacted skeptically on Friday to the Iraq decree, saying Baghdad had no credibility on the issue. The U.N. inspectors' reports were delivered as U.S. and British forces massed in the Gulf region for a possible invasion of Iraq. Blix said he could not say how many weapons of mass destruction, if any, Iraq had, saying he had only found so far a small number of empty chemical munitions. "One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist," Blix said. "However, that possibility is also not excluded. If they exist, they should be presented for destruction. If they do not exist, credible evidence to that effect should be presented." On missiles, Blix said Iraq had tested missiles beyond the range permitted by Security Council resolution. He did not say his inspectors would destroy them but he would speak to Iraqi authorities about his determination. A panel of six independent experts Blix organized this week determined that Iraq's Al Samoud 2 missile project is illegal because its range exceeds the 93-mile limit first set down in a 1991 Security Council resolution. As the inspectors reported, the U.S. military said aircraft taking part in U.S.-British patrols attacked Iraqi missile systems in the southern "no-fly" zone on Friday, the fifth strike on Iraqi targets in a week. [.....] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2003%2F02%2F15%2Fwb lix15.xml * BRITAIN AND US UNMOVED AS BLIX CALLS FOR MORE TIME OVER IRAQ by Marcus Warren and Toby Harnden Daily Telegraph, 15th February British and American hopes of securing a second United Nations resolution on Iraq were set back yesterday when Hans Blix, head of the UN weapons inspectors, suggested that Saddam Hussein's regime could be disarmed if they were given more time. Diplomats from both countries privately described Mr Blix's report as disappointing. But they made clear that they would not be knocked off course by it and would not shrink from military action without a second resolution if necessary. Delivering a markedly less harsh verdict than his report on Jan 27, the former Swedish foreign minister said that, although the Iraqis must "squarely tackle" serious questions, they had recently taken action that "appears useful and pertains to co-operation on substance". He said that Iraq had still not explained what had become of large stocks of weapons, including 1,000 tons of chemical agent packed into thousands of bombs, that have been unaccounted for since 1998. Mr Blix also ruled that the al-Samoud missile programme breached the 90-mile limit imposed by the UN. But he pointedly did not repeat his previous accusation that Saddam had no intention of disarming. He also noted modest progress on questions of "process". Some Iraqi officials had been interviewed in private and were "informative"; the ratio of government "minders" to inspectors had gone down from five to one to one to one: analysis of hundreds of samples showed no traces of chemical or biological agents; and Iraq was allowing spy aircraft to operate. The chamber at UN headquarters in New York was hushed as Mr Blix concluded: "Today, three months after the adoption of resolution 1441, the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short if immediate, active and unconditional co-operation were forthcoming." France and Russia, which as permanent members of the Security Council have the power to veto any second resolution, seized on Mr Blix's report as a justification for postponing any war. Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, said there had to be more time for inspections. "The use of force is not justified at this time," he said. "There is an alternative to war: disarming Iraq through inspections." Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, echoed those sentiments, stating that inspections were proceeding smoothly and "moving in the right direction". Force "can be resorted to, but only when all other remedies have been exhausted", he said. In Baghdad, Saddam continued his brinkmanship when he claimed to be complying with one of the key demands of UN arms experts barely two hours before Mr Blix's address. After meeting four key aides, he issued a decree banning the production of weapons of mass destruction. The presidential edict read: "Individuals and companies in private and mixed sectors are banned from importing and producing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons." The measured tone of Mr Blix's report in contrast to his more forceful remarks last month inflicted unexpected damage on America's case, a blow that its allies tried valiantly but with mixed success to repair. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Colin Powell, the American secretary of state, delivered impassioned speeches roundly rejecting the notion of extending the inspections process. Mr Straw said that "if we back away, if we decide to give unlimited time, for little or no co-operation", dealing with Saddam would become much harder. All the passion and rivalry dividing the world on Iraq was on display as the great powers clashed over their next move. Mr Powell fought a rearguard action to argue America's case for the use of force in the weeks ahead. The former general, who had delivered a forensic presentation showing Iraq's defiance and deceit to the same audience only 10 days earlier, was suddenly thrust on the defensive as the inspectors questioned his case. Mr Powell said: "We cannot allow this process to be endlessly strung out as Iraq is trying to do. String it out long enough and the world will start looking in other directions and [Saddam] will get away with it again." Mr Blix had taken issue with Mr Powell's interpretation of satellite pictures, saying that they did not prove that Iraq was moving banned munitions from a suspect site. "Movement of munitions could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of imminent inspection," he said. But Downing Street and the White House believed there was enough in Mr Blix's report to make the argument that Saddam was continuing to block the inspections. Ari Fleischer, President George W Bush's press secretary, said the report was "very diplomatic" but its "bottom line" was "that the world has no confidence that Saddam has disarmed". Referring to Saddam's concession that aircraft could be used by the UN inspectors, he said: "This is not about whether U2s fly; this is not about whether Mirages fly. This is about whether Saddam's claim that he has disarmed is itself a mirage." British diplomats pointed to Mr Blix's reference to Iraq's having tested its al-Samoud missiles beyond the range permitted by the Security Council. This was a serious new violation, they said. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/16/international/europe/16DIPL.html * U.S. TO SEEK TESTS TO SHOW THAT IRAQ RESISTS DISARMING by Steven R. Weisman New York Times, 16th February WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 ‹ Seeking more persuasive evidence that Iraq continues to defy United Nations weapons inspectors, the Bush administration plans a set of final specific tests over the next two weeks of Saddam Hussein's willingness to disarm, administration officials said today. At the same time, despite growing resistance at the United Nations to authorizing force against Iraq, the administration intends to put forward, as early as Tuesday, a new Security Council resolution that would declare Iraq out of compliance with disarmament and authorize "serious consequences" if it continues on that path. American officials hope that skeptical nations will support the resolution if Iraq fails the new tests. "Within days you will have a decision by the United States on an early resolution at the United Nations," an official said. Meanwhile, he added, United Nations weapons inspectors were preparing a set of "benchmark" tests for Iraq that could also be presented this week, perhaps formally by the United States or other Security Council members. The administration's determination to maintain pressure on Iraq, but to continue doing so through the United Nations, was also signaled today by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. Speaking before a Labor meeting in Glasgow as antiwar demonstrations spread across Europe, he harshly criticized Mr. Hussein, saying that if a million protesters marched, "that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started." Still, Mr. Blair said, "I continue to want to solve the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction through the U.N." Administration officials said that President Bush would confer over this three-day weekend with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and that they would talk with allies to decide the wording and timing of the next Security Council measure. Despite what appeared to be a setback at the United Nations on Friday for the American led effort to win international backing for military action against Iraq, officials say Britain and the United States have decided that the new resolution will specifically threaten Iraq with "serious consequences" ‹ code words for the use of force. The threat will be made in light of Iraq's failure to comply with arms inspections, the officials say. But the other part of the administration's strategy is no less important, especially given the opposition to force by France and other countries, officials said. That part relates to its plans to present Iraq with specific tasks over the next two weeks, which would make clear, even to skeptics like France, the extent of its willingness to cooperate. The tasks would include allowing weapons inspectors to interview Iraqi scientists without government "minders" present, destroying missiles that were recently found to have greater range than the United Nations allows, and permitting unconditional overflights by American, European and Russian reconnaissance aircraft. Iraq has so far refused to go along with those steps. "We are looking for some early benchmarks, specific things that the Iraqis will have to do to show full compliance," an administration official said. He said Hans Blix, a leader of the United Nations inspections team, agreed to setting such benchmarks soon when he met with Mr. Powell and others on Friday after the contentious session at the Security Council. British and American planners hope that, once it is obvious that Iraq is refusing to carry out those tasks, Mr. Blix will tell the United Nations forthrightly that Iraq is failing to comply with the disarmament demands of Security Council Resolution 1441 of last November. On Friday, Mr. Blix delivered an assessment of Iraqi cooperation that was interpreted very differently by the United States and by France and other skeptics of using force. The ambiguity of Mr. Blix's statement, coupled with his rebuttal of certain information presented by the United States as evidence of Iraqi misconduct, dismayed many in the American and British governments. Mr. Blix's concluding statement on Friday was that "the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short, if `immediate, active and unconditional cooperation' " were "forthcoming." American officials seized on this wording as proof of their contention that Iraq has fallen far short of the "immediate, active and unconditional cooperation" that was specified in Resolution 1441. The French, on the other hand, took from this same language the suggestion that without such cooperation, inspections could still work but that they might take longer. The session on Friday, which exposed a deep split among Security Council members, was still being analyzed by participants today. Some said the passionate presentation by the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, left "wiggle room" for France to participate in an eventual decision to go to war. Others doubted that. A French official said today that Mr. de Villepin's statement meant that the only way that France would agree to use force would be if Mr. Blix and his colleague, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, found that they could no longer do their work "because of Iraqi refusal to cooperate." American officials acknowledged that they probably did not have enough votes on the Security Council to authorize "serious consequences" against Iraq. But they also noted that France's proposal for a resolution authorizing the doubling or tripling of the inspectors also did not have enough votes to pass. Despite Mr. Blix's public statement, administration officials said he and the other inspectors were privately more skeptical of Iraq's motives when they met separately with members of the Security Council on Friday. "In private, a lot of people were more appreciative of the situation than they were in public," an administration official said. For example, in his public remarks Mr. Blix cited Iraqi willingness to pass laws and set up commissions to cooperate with weapons inspectors, but in private he was said to understand that those were mere gestures, having more to do with "process" than results. The administration official said Mr. Blix had been careful to avoid making judgments about Iraqi conduct, and his approach led to the ambiguous wording of his statements. Administration officials hope that Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei will be more emphatic about Iraqi noncompliance in their next presentation to the Security Council, in about two weeks. Military officials said that they did not expect to be ready to attack Iraq until mid-March in any case, and that an attack would be acceptable in late March or early April, even with the onset of warm weather that some fear could hamper combat. http://www.wn.com/p/cb/e3b5242f12f2.html?id=11d7177 * AMERICAN U-2 PLANE MAKES 1ST IRAQ FLIGHT Associated Press, 18th February BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) ‹ An American U-2 surveillance plane made its first flight over Iraq on Monday in support of the current U.N. inspection mission, marking another concession by Saddam Hussein's regime to stave off a U.S.-led attack. Meanwhile, Iraqi state television broadcast scenes of Iraqi troops in maneuvers to defend the country from a possible U.S. attack. State television also said Saddam praised last weekend's anti-war protests, singling out those in Italy, Spain and Britain whose governments support the strong U.S. position against Baghdad. The U-2 flight took place only one week after the United Nations and Baghdad broke an impasse that had kept the reconnaissance plane grounded since the start of inspections in November. The Iraqis agreed to allow U-2 flights last week, fulfilling a major demand by U.N. inspectors seeking to determine if Iraq still harbors weapons of mass destruction. "At 11:55 a.m., a U-2 surveillance plane entered Iraqi airspace and reconnoitered several areas of Iraq and left Iraqi airspace at 4:15 p.m.," the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "The reconnaissance operation lasted 4 hours and 20 minutes." The statement did not indicate the plane's flight path. "A U-2 did fly today," said Ewen Buchanan, the New York-based spokesman for the chief inspector Hans Blix. "It's about time, too. We've been trying to do this for quite a while and we hope that the other reconnaissance aircraft and drones will be up and running shortly, thereby increasing our capabilities." Iraqi officials had objected to the U-2 flights, contending they couldn't guarantee the safety of the plane if it was flying over Iraq at the same time as U.S.-British air patrols in the "no fly zones" of northern and southern Iraq. Unless those warplanes were kept out of the sky during the U-2 flight, the reconnaissance craft might be targeted by anti-aircraft fire, they said. The no-fly zones were declared by Washington, without U.N. authorization, to protect dissident Iraqi Shiite Muslims and Iraqi Kurds from Saddam's forces. The Iraqis consider the zones to be illegal. It was not immediately clear whether the United Nations met conditions requested by the Iraqis in order to let the U-2 flights pass unimpeded. Gen. Hossam Mohamed Amin, the chief Iraqi liaison officer to the U.N. inspectors, had asked Blix to give Baghdad data on the flight before it entered the country's airspace, including the plane's call sign, its altitude, speed and time of arrival. Iraq had asked for similar conditions for U-2 flights that occurred after the 1991 Gulf War, but had relented and permitted the flights to go forward. [.....] _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk