Iraq is agreeing to allow a return of United Nations weapons inspectors, but the Bush administration says it will work to keep inspectors from going back until the Security Council approves a new, tougher resolution setting out what Baghdad must do to comply and the potential military consequences if it doesn't.
After two days of talks in Vienna, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix laid out the agreement he reached with top Iraqi officials for resuming weapons inspections after a four year break.
"All sites are subject to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access," he said. "However, the memorandum of understanding of 1998 establishes special procedures for access to eight presidential sites."
That memorandum was reached between U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But it failed to guarantee inspectors access to all sites they wanted to visit. President Bush is now pushing for a U.N. new resolution demanding compliance and backed up by the threat of force before inspectors are allowed to return.
"The final bottom line has got to be a very strong resolution, so that we don't fall into the same trap we have done for the last 11 years, which is nothing happens," the president said.
Tuesday's agreement between Iraq and the United Nations does not appear to include a guarantee that U.N. inspectors will be given access to the same presidential sites that Baghdad placed off limits four years ago. It was that lack of access that led to several days of U.S. and British air strikes and a refusal by Iraq to allow weapons inspectors to return.
On Wednesday, the Senate begins debate on a resolution that would authorize the president to again use force if he deems it necessary for disarming Iraq. At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked about the costs of any potential war in the Gulf, answering that the cost would be just "one bullet" as he put it, if the Iraqi people decided to take matters into their own hands.
"There are many options that the president hopes the world and the people of Iraq will exercise themselves to get rid of the threat," the spokesman said.
He denied his comment amounts to an endorsement of assassination but repeated the goal of U.S. policy towards Iraq remains regime change.