While accusing the U.S. of blackmailing the U.N. to adopt a “bad and unjust” resolution, Iraqi officials said Saturday they were studying the world body’s call to eliminate banned weapons. Arab leaders voiced optimism that Baghdad would comply.
“Iraq has not issued a decision and Iraq is studying this resolution,” Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told reporters after a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo.
The resolution, passed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council on Friday, gives Iraq seven days to respond to a demand to readmit weapons inspectors. After talks with Sabri, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said Baghdad had expressed readiness to readmit the inspectors.
Diplomats and other officials involved in the Arab League meeting, which continues today, said Iraq would face intense pressure -- though mostly in private -- to agree to the terms of the resolution. A senior Egyptian official said that even if there is no official statement calling for Iraq’s acquiescence, Iraq “will receive a clear message that compliance is the right thing to do.”
“Most Arab governments will be delivering this message,” the official said. “Nobody wants to see a war.”
The influential Iraqi newspaper Babel, owned by President Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, indicated in an editorial Saturday that compliance was likely. “Iraq has nothing to conceal, and U.N. weapons inspectors are welcome,” it said.
Sabri endeavored to cast the resolution’s passage as something other than a victory for Washington, saying that in the negotiations on the text, the international community succeeded in diluting U.S. plans for aggression against Iraq.
Nevertheless, in Baghdad, the official Iraqi news agency kept up a barrage of criticism of the United States and the U.N. action, calling the resolution “bad and unjust.”
In Baghdad, citizens reacted with apprehension, anger and defiance to the resolution’s approval. Many said they wanted peace but feared war was inevitable. “This should not be called the Security Council, it should be called the Bush council, because it is America that directs it. It uses its members as chess pawns,” said Khaled Khalifa, a 43-year-old teacher.