Iraq Accused of Blocking U.N. Weapons Inspections
The Bush Administration accused Iraq on Tuesday of a “clearly unacceptable” violation of Security Council resolutions for refusing to let U.N. commission helicopters fly over Iraqi territory to search for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
The protest came a day after a U.N. official reported the discovery of four Scud missile transporters that had been welded back together after Iraq cut them apart in response to U.N. orders.
Iraq, meanwhile, confirmed new fighting between its forces and Kurdish rebels but characterized the incidents as small-scale security operations.
Spokesmen for the State and Defense departments said that Washington will confer with other members of the Security Council to consider ways to force President Saddam Hussein’s government to stop interfering with the work of the inspection commission.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the use of force has not been ruled out. “We never rule out options, so I think I can assure you that we’d be looking at all options,” he said. Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams, however, said the United States is not considering “unilateral” military action against Baghdad.
The officials said that Iraq is obligated, under terms of the resolution that ended the Persian Gulf War, to provide full access to inspectors from the U.N. commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The investigators are specifically authorized by the resolution to use helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
On Monday, the United Nations announced that Iraq had refused to permit the inspection teams to fly borrowed German helicopters around the country. Instead, Baghdad said that it would provide all necessary transportation, an offer the U.N. rejected because it would permit Iraq to control the investigators’ movement.
“This defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions is clearly unacceptable,” Boucher said. “We support the work of the Special Commission and the IAEA in eliminating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and agree that to effectively do its job, the Special Commission and the IAEA’s inspection teams must have full freedom of movement within Iraq.”
Rolf Ekeus, head of the U.N. commission, told Reuters news agency that the inspection team saw four Scud missile transporters that had been welded back together. The inspectors were unable to further investigate the incident because of the ban on helicopter flights, he said.