Following growing demands from the U.S. and growing worldwide pressure, Iraq agreed this week to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into the country. VOA-TV's Chris Simkins reports the return of inspections is at the center of a political and diplomatic tug-of-war.
Four-years since they were last in Iraq, International arms inspectors could soon be back in the country looking for weapons of mass destruction. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says Baghdad told the United Nations Monday it will allow the return of the inspectors.
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL
I have received a letter from the Iraqi authorities conveying its decision to allow the return of inspectors without conditions.
The move comes just days after President George Bush told the United Nations that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a threat to international security and demanded Iraq comply with U.N. resolutions. The Bush administration is skeptical about Iraq's latest offer, calling it "a tactical step" aimed at avoiding strong U.N. Security Council action. President Bush, meeting with Congressional leaders Wednesday, dismissed Iraq's offer.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH
The statement about unconditional inspections is something that he has made in the past. He deceives, he delays, he denies. And the United States, I'm convinced the world community, aren't going to fall for that kind of rhetoric by him again.
In Washington lawmakers are ready to unite behind President Bush by adopting a resolution supporting military action against Iraq. The move could come before U.S. Congressional elections in November. Washington also wants the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution for weapons inspections in Iraq with deadlines and backed up by military action if Saddam Hussein doesn't dismantle his weapons of mass destruction. But some U-N Security Council nations are divided about adopting a resolution at all now. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, appealed to those countries not to side with the U-S.
TARIQ AZIA, IRAQ DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
The other members in the Security Council, mainly from Russia, China, France and all the other members who do not share the American and the British agenda against the government and leadership of Iraq, they have to take their responsibility. They have to say what is right and what is wrong.
U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998 after being repeatedly blocked from going to suspected sites. They have not been allowed to return since. Many U.S. and Western diplomats believe in that time Iraq has produced more chemical and biological weapons and increased its efforts to develop a nuclear bomb. Richard Butler is the former chairman of the U.N. weapons inspection program.
RICHARD BUTLER, FORMER CHAIRMAN, U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTION PROGRAM
Iraq has said we have no weapons of mass destruction what so ever. I want to say to you plainly, that is not true. The issue is will they be able to conceal that or not.
U.N. diplomats continue to negotiate over the need for a tough anti-Iraq resolution. Meanwhile, the chief U.N. weapons inspector has begun preliminary talks over the details of when the inspectors can return. Some analysts say it could take several weeks before arms inspectors return to Iraq.
In the meantime, planning and preparation for a possible U.S. military strike against Iraq continue. The Pentagon is moving more aircraft to the region and U.S. Navy officials say three aircraft carrier battle groups will be within striking distance of Iraq by December. The U.S. already has more than 40,000 troops in the Persian Gulf region and that number will grow soon as nearly 4,000 Marines join troops already in Kuwait.