Published December 04, 2002
WASHINGTON – Bush administration officials expect Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to try to confuse international inspectors this weekend with a weapons list designed to keep them guessing.
Iraq is required by the U.N. Security Council to hand over a list by Sunday of any chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in its possession as well a description of any long-range missile program.
What Saddam is most likely to do is to provide thousands of documents on such peripheral issues as dual-use equipment, commercial material of potential military use, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.
President Bush said, meanwhile, that Saddam "is not somebody who looks like he's interested in complying."
"This is not a game anymore of, 'Well, I'll say one thing and do another,'" Bush told reporters at the White House. "We expect him to disarm, and now it's up to him to do so."
In apparent disagreement with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's assessment that Iraqi "cooperation seems to be good" in the first few days of inspection, Bush cited Iraq's firing at U.S. and British warplanes patrolling the skies over northern and southern Iraq as an indication of defiance.
"Anybody who shoots at U.S. airplanes or British airplanes is not somebody who looks like he's interested in complying with disarmament," Bush said.
In Baghdad, inspection team leader Demetrius Perricos reported a powerful chemical weapon, the liquid agent mustard, had been found Wednesday in Iraqi artillery shells at a desert installation.
Iraq protested sharply Wednesday over U.N. weapons inspectors' surprise intrusion into one of Saddam presidential palaces, accusing the arms experts of being spies and staging the palace search as a provocation that could lead to war. The harshest criticism came from Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who charged — in language reminiscent of clashes with inspectors in the 1990s — that the new teams of U.N. monitors are gathering intelligence for Washington and Israel.
The White House dismissed Iraq's protest as part of a pattern of not cooperating with international inspectors.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, at a news conference in Bogota, Colombia, said "we are absolutely sure they have continued to develop weapons of mass destruction, and we're sure they have in their possession weapons of mass destruction."
Powell said if a peaceful solution was not found, "the international community, I predict, will be unified in using force."
However, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told ABC News' Nightline that "we don't have weapons of mass destruction. We don't have chemical, biological or nuclear weaponry, but we have equipment which was defined as dual use."
The schedule set by the Security Council calls for a full weapons declaration by Sunday. Aziz said the list would be turned over to U.N. and International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors on Saturday, a day ahead of the deadline.
Aziz told "Nightline" that their declaration on Saturday won't stop America from attacking Iraq.
"My conviction is that the war is not because of weapons of mass destruction because the whole issue of weapons of mass destruction is a hoax," he said. "It has been used as a pretext in order to wage a war against Iraq. When they find that there are no weapons of mass destruction, they will use another pretext to attack."
While the weapons inspectors would have until Dec. 23 to resume their search, the Bush administration may go quickly and directly to the Security Council if the declaration is patently false, the U.S. official said.
There the administration would try to rally a consensus to support the use of force against Iraq, the official said.
If the outlook is the kind of extended debate that delayed the Nov. 8 resolution or if a veto against force loomed, the United States might take action outside the United Nations with a coalition of willing allies, he said.
The administration is confident it would have the support of many countries in a war with Iraq — and more of them if a second anti-Iraq resolution is approved, the official said.
Most of all, the United States is seeking permission to use foreign bases for combat flights and for troops to fight alongside Americans, the official said. Beyond that, there is a need for approval for overflights and other forms of access.
No country is prepared to make an ironclad commitment, and none has been requested, the official said. But most countries in the Middle East and Persian Gulf share the U.S. analysis of Saddam, and the Nov. 8 resolution has accelerated their willingness to take part in contingency planning, he said.