As United Nations inspectors continue their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, President George Bush, in his annual State of Union address, said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has not gotten rid of those weapons and is deceiving the world. VOA TV’s Deborah Block has our report.
In his State of the Union Address, President Bush said the prospect of war with Iraq is very real. And he vowed, if necessary, to use the full force of the U.S. military to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
“If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”
Mr. Bush reiterated his view that Baghdad has failed to comply with United Nations disarmament demands, and instead, has amassed weapons of mass destruction.
“Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities. Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown, instead, his utter contempt for the United Nations and for the opinion of the world.”
President Bush left no doubt that the United States would be willing to disarm Saddam Hussein, with or without the help of other countries. But he said is also asking the U.N. Security Council to convene next Wednesday to consider new evidence by the U.S. that Iraq has illegal weapons.
Washington state governor Gary Locke, who delivered the Democratic party response, urged the president to continue working with the United Nations.
“We must convince the world that Saddam Hussein is not America’s problem alone. He’s the world’s problem. We urge President Bush to stay this course for we are stronger when we stand with other nations than when we stand alone.”
Although Iraq has denied having links with terrorist groups, Mr. Bush said that’s not true.
“Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida.”
British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, a staunch ally of Mr. Bush on possible military strikes against Iraq, travels to the United States this week to meet with the president. Echoing President Bush, Prime Minister Blair told his parliament he knows of links between Iraq and al-Qaida, and said, once again, that Saddam Hussein is dangerous.
“If Saddam Hussein is allowed to carry on developing weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical, potentially nuclear weapons, he is not just a threat to his own region, he is a threat to the world.”
During an interview, Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz dismissed President Bush’s allegations against Iraq, including having links with al-Qaeda or hiding biological weapons.
“The accusations of Mr. Bush in his statement last night are baseless. Simply baseless. They are the repetition of the old rhetoric which we have been listening to and watching for months and which have failed to convince people.”
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says he welcomes the U.S. plan to show evidence of Iraq’s weapons program. But he stresses Germany’s position that the place for decision making is in the U.N. Security Council.
Chief U-N weapons inspector, Hans Blix, says Iraq has not truly accepted U.N. demands of disarmament. He told the Security Council key issues remain unresolved, such as the whereabouts of thousands of chemical bombs and stocks of biological weapons. He said Iraq must do more to prove it is free of weapons of mass destruction, including anthrax.
“Iraq has declared that it has produced about 8500 liters of this biological warfare agent which it states it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991. Iraq has provided little evidence for its production, and no convincing evidence for its destruction."
Although the chief weapons inspector said there is no evidence of banned activity at any of the Iraqi sites that were investigated, he criticized Baghdad for putting up obstacles, such as not allowing U-2 surveillance planes.
“While we now have the technical capability to present a U-2 plane placed at our disposal for aerial imagery and for surveillance during our inspections, and having informed Iraq that we planed to do so, Iraq has refused to guarantee its safety unless a number of conditions are fulfilled.”
But an Iraqi member of Parliament, Mohamed al-Adhami, says he thinks the report is positive.
“They couldn’t find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The allegation that was raised by Blair and by the Americans are baseless.”
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed El Baradei, says inspectors found no evidence Iraq has revived its nuclear arms program. He called on the Security Council to give the inspectors more time to complete their job.
MOHAMMED EL BARADEI
“These few months, in my view, would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Tariq Aziz also hopes a peaceful solution can be found. But he says Baghdad will respond to an attack by U.S. forces, including from neighboring countries.
“American troops are in Kuwait and preparing themselves to attack Iraq. If there will be an attack from Kuwait, I cannot say that we will not retaliate. We will, of course, retaliate against the American troops wherever they start their aggression on Iraq.”
Meanwhile, in Kuwait and elsewhere, American troops continue to gear up for a possible war. Four hundred U.S. military aircraft and 77,000 troops are currently in the Persian Gulf and those numbers are expected to double in about a month.