November 3, 1997 in Nation/World

U.S., Iraq Prepare For Staredown Iraqis Bar 2 American Inspectors Sunday; Congressional Leaders Call For Military Action

Waiel Faleh Associated Press
 

Iraq barred American weapons experts from entering the country Sunday, the second such refusal in a week and the latest sign that Baghdad has no intention of backing down from its threat to expel American inspectors.

Three American experts arrived on a U.N. flight from Bahrain in advance of the scheduled resumption of U.N. inspections today, foreign diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

Two were politely turned back at Habbaniya, the military airport used by inspectors about 40 miles west of Baghdad, the diplomats said. The third American, who was free to enter Iraq, left with them.

Iraq’s U.N. envoy on Sunday made it clear Baghdad was not softening, saying Iraqi authorities will prevent U.N. teams that include Americans from entering sites in Iraq when the inspection team returns to work today.

“Our people are going to prevent those teams which have Americans from getting into the sites,” Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon said at the United Nations.

It was the first time that a senior Iraqi official has said unequivocally Americans would not be permitted to join inspections that are to take place before the Wednesday deadline for the U.S. team members to leave.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered Sunday to send a mission to Iraq to defuse the crisis, spokesman Fred Eckard said in New York.

No word on the offer has been received from the Iraqis, Eckard said.

The bid was made after the United States dropped its objection to such a mission.

Diplomats proposed for the delegation were from Algeria, Sweden and Argentina. Washington insisted on including the Argentine, former U.N. envoy Emilio Cardenas, in the group, but it was unclear whether Iraq would accept him, a diplomatic source said on condition of anonymity.

In Washington, the top four congressional leaders stressed Sunday that the United States should respond quickly to Iraq, including taking military action.

House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said they all agreed the government of Saddam Hussein must relent to inspections.

“The only thing that he (Saddam) seems to understand is action, and that’s what’s going to have to happen,” Gephardt said.

The head of the State Department’s Middle East bureau, Martin Indyk, said Sunday in Saudi Arabia that Saddam “must reverse his decision not to cooperate with” the U.N. inspectors.

But the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, said that while all options are being considered, at this stage it is the United Nations, not the United States, that must confront the Iraqis.

“This is not a fight between the United States and Iraq. This is Iraq confronting the United Nations and (U.N.) Security Council violations,” Richardson said on ABC’s “This Week”.

The two Americans barred Sunday from entering Iraq work with the U.N. Special Commission, which is overseeing the elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The third is an employee of the Vienna-headquartered International Atomic Energy Agency, which is monitoring Iraq’s nuclear capability.

At least four inspectors from other countries were admitted Sunday.

Diplomats said Sunday’s airport scene duplicated a confrontation Thursday, when the same three Americans tried to enter the country. The two members of the weapons team were refused and the third departed with them in a voluntary show of support.

On Wednesday, Iraq gave the 10 American inspectors in Baghdad a week to leave the country. The order did not apply to about 30 other inspectors from other nations currently in Iraq.

Two of those Americans left last week and a third departed Sunday, leaving seven in Iraq, the U.N. official said. It was part of a rotation and had nothing to do with the expulsion orders, the diplomats said.

Iraq has defended the expulsion order - which applies only to Americans on the U.N. weapons commission - saying the U.S. inspectors were fomenting conflict to justify continuing U.N. sanctions, which include an embargo on oil exports.

Officials at the U.N. Special Commission in Baghdad declined to comment Sunday and those in the Bahraini capital Manama said they had no information.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler of Australia suspended operations in Iraq last week just after the Iraqi announcement. But on Friday, Butler directed his team, including the Americans, to resume inspections today.

There was no indication that Iraq would try to stop those inspections since the expulsion order does not take effect until Wednesday.

The inspectors must verify that Iraq has eliminated all weapons of mass destruction and the programs to build them before the U.N. Security Council will lift sweeping sanctions imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Iraq claims it has destroyed its long-range missiles and biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. But the commission told the Security Council in October that Iraq was withholding information.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

NOTES ON A CONFLICT

U-2 missions marked

In another escalation of Baghdad’s defiance, Iraq’s U.N. ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, Sunday sent letters to Richard Butler, head of the U.N. Special Commission, and Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warning them to cancel U-2 flights that had been scheduled over Iraq from Wednesday to Friday.

U.S. officials refused to comment on the letter. But Western sources, who saw it, quoted Hamdoon as saying that because “Iraq expects a military aggression against it by the United States … entry of the U.S. spy plane into Iraq’s air space cannot be accepted.” The sources said Hamdoon added, “I hope it would be clear that you assume the responsibility for results of your decision to send the spy plane to Iraq, especially in these circumstances in which our anti-aircraft artillery is open everywhere in anticipation of a possible aggression.”

U.S. officials have said their first emphasis would be in cooperating with other Security Council members on diplomatic approaches.

Jitters in Baghdad

Signs of nervousness peek through the calm in Iraq’s capital, where some residents worry that a standoff with the United Nations will worsen food shortages or lead to a military confrontation.

Iraq’s currency, the dinar, is jittery, and its leadership shows no signs of backing down from a threat to expel American arms inspectors trying to determine whether Iraq has followed U.N. orders to destroy its weapons of mass destruction.

Fakhria Aboud, a 58-year-old mother of eight, said she fears a missile strike on Baghdad like strikes of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

“I am trying to build up a stock for my family in case something happens,” she said, pushing a cart full of vegetables and groceries down a street. “We have filled all the containers at the house with heating oil, and it is time to stock up on food.”

This sidebar appeared with the story: NOTES ON A CONFLICT U-2 missions marked In another escalation of Baghdad’s defiance, Iraq’s U.N. ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, Sunday sent letters to Richard Butler, head of the U.N. Special Commission, and Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warning them to cancel U-2 flights that had been scheduled over Iraq from Wednesday to Friday. U.S. officials refused to comment on the letter. But Western sources, who saw it, quoted Hamdoon as saying that because “Iraq expects a military aggression against it by the United States … entry of the U.S. spy plane into Iraq’s air space cannot be accepted.” The sources said Hamdoon added, “I hope it would be clear that you assume the responsibility for results of your decision to send the spy plane to Iraq, especially in these circumstances in which our anti-aircraft artillery is open everywhere in anticipation of a possible aggression.” U.S. officials have said their first emphasis would be in cooperating with other Security Council members on diplomatic approaches.

Jitters in Baghdad Signs of nervousness peek through the calm in Iraq’s capital, where some residents worry that a standoff with the United Nations will worsen food shortages or lead to a military confrontation. Iraq’s currency, the dinar, is jittery, and its leadership shows no signs of backing down from a threat to expel American arms inspectors trying to determine whether Iraq has followed U.N. orders to destroy its weapons of mass destruction. Fakhria Aboud, a 58-year-old mother of eight, said she fears a missile strike on Baghdad like strikes of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. “I am trying to build up a stock for my family in case something happens,” she said, pushing a cart full of vegetables and groceries down a street. “We have filled all the containers at the house with heating oil, and it is time to stock up on food.”


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