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US Official: Saddam Threatens to Kill Scientists Who Talk to UN Inspectors - 2003-01-24

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz Thursday says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has threatened Iraqi scientists not to talk to U.N. Weapons inspectors. Mr. Wolfowitz also warned that time is running out for Iraq to disarm.

Echoing statements made by President Bush and other high ranking administration officials, Mr. Wolfowitz said that Iraq's continuing deception of United Nations weapons inspectors must end, or it will lead to forcible disarmament.

Addressing the private Council on Foreign Relations in New York, he presented what he calls overwhelming evidence of Iraqi non-compliance. "What we know from the testimony of Iraqis with first hand knowledge, from U.N. inspectors, and from other countries about Iraq's current efforts to deceive inspectors, suggests that Iraq is fully engaged today in the same old practices of concealment and deception," he said. "Iraq seems to be employing virtually all of the old techniques used to frustrate U.N. inspections in the past."

Iraqi officials say that Baghdad has encouraged scientists to agree to interviews with U.N. weapons inspectors in private, but none have agreed to do so.

Mr. Wolfowitz says he has little confidence in any information these scientists could reveal. "We know from multiple sources that Saddam has ordered that any scientist who cooperates during interviews will be killed, as well as their families," he said. "Furthermore, we know that scientists are being tutored on what to say to the U.N. inspectors, and that Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as scientists to be interviewed by the inspectors."

Mr. Wolfowitz says Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and links to terror networks are a threat to U.S. and world security. He attributes the growing opposition of Security Council members to the use of force against Iraq to the belief that U.N. weapons inspectors can effectively disarm Iraq without Baghdad's full cooperation.

"One of the problems with a lot of people is a well intentioned belief that the key to preventing war is to persuade us that we mustn't act," he said. "And the key, in fact, here, to achieving the one alternative to war, which is cooperative disarmament, is to persuade Saddam Hussein that he must act. So I would say, whatever the intentions of our allies, and I believe they agree with us completely that he has these weapons, I would hope they put more effort into persuading Saddam Hussein than into persuading us."

Mr. Wolfowitz says a peaceful resolution to the standoff with Iraq rests not in the hands of the United States or the United Nations, but in the hands of Saddam Hussein.