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[casi] News, 12-19/02/03 (4)

News, 12-19/02/03 (4)


*  CIA Chief Testifies on Security Threats
*  Powell is flawless - inside a media bubble
*  Iraqi dissident: Saddam has no nukes, but...


*  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


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

"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

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. (available online for
one week only)

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.

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.


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

"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.


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

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

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

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.

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

"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

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.

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

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.


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