Wednesday, Dec 04, 2002
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
"In the inspections process, the United States will be making one judgment: Has Saddam Hussein changed his behaviour of the last 11 years? Has he decided to cooperate willingly and comply completely, or has he not? So far the signs are not encouraging'', the U.S. President, George W Bush, said. "The inspectors are not in Iraq to play hide-and-seek with Mr. Saddam Hussein'', the President remarked in what are the first extensive comments since the United Nations weapons inspections team headed by Hans Blix started work in Iraq last week.
The United States has made it known that it is seriously looking at the December 8 deadline when Iraq has to make a complete declaration of all its weapons systems and programmes. Mr. Bush argued that the Iraqi declaration must be "credible and complete; or the Iraqi dictator will have demonstrated to the world once again that he has chosen not to change his behaviour''.
The President's tough words on Iraq were echoed by his Vice-President, Dick Cheney; and in London by the Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz. While Mr. Bush made his comments at the Pentagon during the signing of a legislation of military authorisation for $ 355.5 billions, Mr. Cheney took shots at Baghdad while addressing Air National Guard leaders in Denver, Colorado.
Mr. Cheney maintained that given the chance terror outfits like the Al-Qaeda would join with regimes like Iraq to get weapons of mass destruction. "That's why confronting the threat imposed by Iraq is not a distraction from the war on terror; it is absolutely crucial to winning the war on terror. The war on terror will not be won until Iraq is completely and verifiably deprived of weapons of mass destruction'', Mr. Cheney argued. The linkage between terrorism and Iraq has to be seen in the context of a perception in Capitol Hill that if the United States has been unable to catch Osama bin Laden, it is on account of this Bush administration getting side tracked and obsessed with Mr. Hussein of Iraq.
Top law makers have suggested that going after Osama should be assigned the first priority. Washington is looking very carefully at what Baghdad might have to say on or before the December 8 deadline. Iraq's contention that its `list' will have nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction because it has no such programmes is simply being brushed off here. One view is that Mr. Bush will not immediately opt for a military strike; rather might be inclined to share intelligence with weapons inspectors who would then turn around and challenge the regime in Iraq.
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