Thursday, Apr 24, 2003
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
The definite impression in Washington is that Paris will have to pay a price for being on the other side of the fence and also actively opposing the U.S. in recent weeks over Iraq.
In what appears to be yet another confrontation with the United Nations, the White House has flatly rejected that U.N. weapons inspectors could be allowed back into Iraq to look for weapons and programmes of mass destruction. "Make no mistake about it. The U.S and the coalition have taken on the responsibility for dismantling Iraq's (weapons of mass destruction)," remarked Ari Fleischer, the White House Spokesman.
"We have a coalition on the ground to dismantle Iraq's WMD programmes and we think that's going to be effective. We think it will get the job done," the Spokesman argued. Senior administration officials have been saying that American and coalition forces and experts are yet to find any weapons of mass destruction the supposed existence of which was the rationale for this war against Iraq.
Ironically, senior officials are now making the point that finding proscribed weapons is going to take `time' the same thing that the Chief Weapons Inspector, Hans Blix, was saying in February and March and no one in the power corridors of Washington wanted to hear.
The White House is also taking on countries like France, Russia and Germany frontally on lifting sanctions and on the legal obstacles that prevent the lifting of the punitive measures on the whims and fancies of the Bush administration. Russia and now France has been saying sanctions can be lifted only after the U.N. weapons inspectors certify that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. "Why should any nation support imposing sanctions on the Iraqi people now? Sanctions equal Saddam Hussein. He is gone. It is wrong now to leave sanctions on the people of Iraq. They don't deserve it," Mr. Fleischer maintained.
At the Security Council on Tuesday, France surprised many by proposing a temporary `suspension' of sanctions saying that it was imperative to take into account the realities on the ground. The fact that Paris was signalling to Washington that something could be worked out in the realm of sanctions seemed to be lost on an administration that is keenly looking for ways to `punish' France for what had taken place in the last several weeks.
Senior officials of the administration met on Monday to discuss concrete methods to "punish' France for its opposition to the Iraq war, at the United Nations and beyond. In an interview the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said, "It's over and we have to take a look at the relationship."
Asked if there are consequences for opposing the United States, Gen Powell replied `yes' without elaborating.
It is believed that senior members of the Bush administration like the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, are in favour of taking tough action against France; and among the measures discussed are limiting French participating in trans-Atlantic forums and excluding France from Policy Meetings that the White House has with European Allies.
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