Mixed Messages On Iraq Hard-Liners Urge Saddam’s Ouster, While Yeltsin Warns Of ‘World War’
With Republican leaders of Congress calling for stronger measures against Iraq than the air attacks currently being planned, Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a blunt warning that any U.S. military action could lead to “world war.”
“You have to be more careful in a world filled will all types of dangerous weapons, some of them in the hands of terrorists,” Yeltsin told reporters in Moscow, adding that he believes President Clinton is “behaving too loudly” in regard to the Iraqi situation.
“By his actions, Clinton might run into a world war,” he said.
The White House was stunned by Yeltsin’s remarks, which presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said caught Clinton by surprise.
Nonetheless, McCurry downplayed the comments, saying that Clinton expects to have Russia’s support if military force is used to get Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to comply with United Nations arms inspections.
A Yeltsin spokesman also sought to play down the remarks, telling reporters that it would be “ridiculous and absurd” to interpret them as a threat of Russian retaliation if Iraq is attacked.
He said Yeltsin merely was trying to stress the importance of diplomacy over military force because of his concern that some terrorist groups might react dramatically to another assault on Saddam.
Still, the remarks illustrated the difficulty U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has had in putting together a consensus among U.S. allies and the Arab world about how to respond to the Iraqi crisis. Albright returned from a trip to the Middle East and Europe trying to drum up support for military action. She briefed Clinton on the trip late Wednesday and then met with Democratic and Republican lawmakers, some of whom also received a top secret briefing Tuesday night on the Iraqi situation.
In an appearance at the White House, Clinton declined to respond to Yeltsin’s strong words, but said he was still hopeful that a diplomatic solution could be worked out. If not, he left no doubt that he would order a military strike to end the standoff over Saddam’s refusal to allow U.N. inspection teams carte blanch access to his palaces and other suspicious sites.
“All of us would prefer a genuine diplomatic solution … But I will say again, one way or the other we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them.
That is our bottom line,” he said.
Clinton made the comments shortly after Iraqi officials in Baghdad told CNN that Saddam was ready to allow U.N. inspectors comprehensive access to at least eight sites suspected of housing weapons-related materials.
But they said access would be allowed for only one month, and that inspectors would still be barred from other sites they want to see.
McCurry, in a briefing for reporters, called the Iraqi offer a positive development, but said it was still unacceptable.
“The fact that … Iraq is now seeming to recognize that there is going to have to be some additional access to sites, and they can’t continue to block so-called presidential sites, that is certainly some indication that they are beginning to get the message,” McCurry added.
In her latest trip abroad, Albright emphasized at every stop that nothing short of full compliance by Iraq with the U.N. mandates that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf would be acceptable.
Under the U.N. terms ending the war, international inspectors were charged with destroying Saddam’s ability to make nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
Foreign leaders and diplomats may be urging restraint but at home, the two Republican leaders of Congress called on the administration to remove Saddam from power rather than stopping at a strike intended to force Iraq to permit U.N. weapons inspections.
“We should do everything we can to get this resolved and find a way to have him removed from office one way or another,” said the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott of Mississippi.
The speaker of the House, Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, said the United States had to consider ousting Saddam’s government and replacing it with one that would agree to the U.N. inspections, which Iraq accepted as part of the cease-fire that ended the Persian Gulf war in 1991.
“This is a real problem that requires a real solution, and incremental timidity which only punishes Saddam and leaves him in place to build weapons, is a defeat, not a success,” said Gingrich, whose comments seemed to raise the political pressure on Clinton over Iraq policy even as Republicans in Congress officially offered him their backing.
Removing Saddam from power is a goal that goes much farther than Clinton and his aides have been willing to commit themselves. Officials at the Pentagon have said it would be impossible to achieve with air and missile attacks alone.
Defense Secretary William Cohen, interviewed on CNN, said it was not the administration’s goal to remove Saddam from power. The purpose of bombing, if it becomes necessary, would be to “degrade substantially” Saddam’s ability to stockpile or deploy chemical or biological weapons, Cohen said.
The Pentagon has drafted plans for a protracted bombing campaign that would hit not only weapons factories and stockpiles but also military targets.
But Pentagon officials acknowledge that even with several days’ of air and missile attacks, the United States could not hope to hit every weapons site - especially since chemical and biological weapons are relatively easy to hide - or to topple Saddam’s government.
MEMO: Cut in Spokane edition
This sidebar appeared with the story:
WAR POWERS ACT
Figuring into the calculations of both Congress and the administration is the 1973 War Powers Resolution. The law has been disputed by every president since it was passed by a Democratic Congress over the veto of a Watergate-weakened Richard Nixon.
The War Powers Act requires a president to report to Congress within 48 hours of introducing American forces “into hostilities” or other dangerous situations and mandates that the chief executive “shall terminate” the deployment within 60 days unless Congress declares war or otherwise authorizes continuing military action.
Cut in Spokane edition
This sidebar appeared with the story: WAR POWERS ACT Figuring into the calculations of both Congress and the administration is the 1973 War Powers Resolution. The law has been disputed by every president since it was passed by a Democratic Congress over the veto of a Watergate-weakened Richard Nixon. The War Powers Act requires a president to report to Congress within 48 hours of introducing American forces “into hostilities” or other dangerous situations and mandates that the chief executive “shall terminate” the deployment within 60 days unless Congress declares war or otherwise authorizes continuing military action.