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US threatens to thwart inspectors' return to Iraq
Times Online
By Richard Beeston, Roland Watson, James Bone and Michael Evans
October 02, 2002

PROGRESS between Iraq and the United Nations hit an immediate snag last night when Washington said that it would work to block the swift return of weapons inspectors.

Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, said that the inspectors should not go back to Iraq until they had received new instructions from the UN Security Council.

His intervention came after Iraqi officials in Vienna reached a comprehensive agreement with Hans Blix, the UN's chief weapons inspector, that could see inspectors back in Baghdad within two weeks after a four-year absence.

The deal, to be presented to the Security Council tomorrow, put Britain and the United States on the spot. London and Washington want a new UN resolution to authorise force if President Saddam Hussein obstructs the inspections. They are fighting France, China and Russia, all with a veto on the Security Council, who want inspectors to return as soon as possible.

General Powell's reaction last night hinted at American unease. He said: "Before we declare that everything is OK today, not one inspector has set foot in Iraq and not one thing has changed since 1998.'

One State Department official said that the United States would "thwart' the return of inspectors until they had fresh instructions from the Security Council.

The State Department has prepared a contingency plan, which may now gain momentum. The compromise would see the US agree to two UN resolutions, an idea proposed by France.

General Powell insisted last night that the American preference was for one resolution, which authorised force if Saddam blocked inspections. But he conceded that there were "different views on how this should be packaged'.

London is happy to go along with the idea of two, especially if it breaks the deadlock on the Security Council. The second resolution would carry the authorisation of force, with the key stipluation that its wording be agreed in advance.

President Bush said yesterday that he wanted a Security Council agreement that was strong. "The UN must show some backbone. We'll work with members of the Security Council to put a little calcium there, put calcium in the backbone.'

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, welcomed the agreement to send United Nations weapons inspectors back to Iraq, but said that it did not replace the need for a tough new Security Council resolution to put pressure on Saddam.

In another nod to the Security Council's more cautious members, Mr Bush also emphasised three times that his priority was to disarm Saddam. He said that the military option was "not the first choice' and that he had not made up his mind whether to go to war. He did not mention "regime change' once.

Saddam told Washington last night that its defiance of world opinion would only make the United States more hated and ultimately bring disaster, whatever its military strength. He told a meeting of his Cabinet: "Iraq has accepted the return of inspectors, but they (the US) continue to beat the drums of war, to spread lies and press the Security Council to adopt new resolutions in violation of international law.'

After two days of talks Mr Blix said in a statement: "The Iraqi representatives declared that Iraq accepts all the rights of inspections provided for in all the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It was clarified that all sites are subject to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access.' He gave few details ahead of his meeting with the UN Security Council tomorrow, but suggested that Iraq had dropped its objections to inspectors visiting so-called "sensitive sites'.

Details of the agreement

# Iraq handed over four CD-Roms containing information regarding equipment, substances and technology that could be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction
# Iraq agreed to allow UN inspectors "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access' to to all sites in Iraq
# The only exceptions are eight presidential sites, where restricted access will apply according to an existing agreement with the UN
# An advance team of UN weapons inspectors is expected back in Baghdad in the next two weeks
# Iraq has agreed to technical details covering transport, communications, security and accommodation for UN inspectors, except for flights by UN aircraft into the no-fly zones
# Iraq agreed to allow UN inspectors to open regional offices in Basra, the southern capital, and Mosul in the north