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Bush: Iraq Claim on Weapons Is 'Same Old Song and Dance' - 2002-09-19


President Bush has rejected Iraqi claims that the country does not posses weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told the United Nations Thursday that his country is ready to cooperate with weapons inspectors.

President Bush says the Iraqi speech was an attempt to distract the United Nations from enforcing resolutions on weapons inspections that Iraq has violated since the end of the Gulf War.

"It's the same old song and dance that we have heard for eleven long years, and the United Nations Security Council must show backbone, must step up and hold this regime to account. Otherwise the United States and some of our friends will do so."

President Bush says he is ready to act against Iraq if the United Nations does not set "firm deadlines" forcing the country to give up weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush says those deadlines must be a matter of days and weeks, not months and years.

Iraq's foreign minister Thursday said the country has not violated any U.N. resolutions and does not possess weapons of mass destruction. He said Iraq is ready to cooperate with the U.N. Security Council but will not accept any violation of its sovereignty or security.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says stated concerns about Iraqi "sovereignty" show the country is not serious about weapons inspectors having unlimited access.

"They are already putting up conditions for the weapons inspectors that they said only two days ago that they would accept unconditionally. When Iraq talks about sovereignty and independence, history has shown that those are code words for thwarting the inspectors," he said.

Quoting a letter from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, his foreign minister said the United States wants to destroy Iraq to control Middle East oil. He says the United States is making-up lies to build international support against Iraq.

Mr. Fleischer says the speech is an attempt to lure the world down the same "dead-end" path it has traveled before. Weapons inspectors left Iraq four years ago because they were not allowed to visit all the sites they wanted.

"In this speech, Iraq failed to accept the truth and engaged in additional deceptions and showed no willingness to change attitude or behavior," he said. "Sadly, the speech presented nothing new and was more of the same. It was a disappointing failure in every respect."

Iraq's Foreign minister spoke one week after President Bush told the United Nations that its credibility is on the line as it decides whether U.N. resolutions may be consistently ignored without consequence.