The White House has reacted to Iraq's acceptance of a tough new U.N. disarmament resolution with a mix of skepticism and resolve. President Bush got word of the Iraqi announcement a few hours before he met at the White House with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The president's first public comments were brief, his words carefully chosen.
Speaking to reporters with Kofi Annan at his side, Mr. Bush focused his remarks on the importance of the resolution passed unanimously last Friday by the U.N. Security Council. "The United Nations Security Council made a very strong statement that we, the world, expect Saddam Hussein to disarm for the sake of peace. And the U.N. stepped up to its responsibilities and I want to thank you for that, Mr. Secretary General," Mr. Bush said.
The president did not refer directly to Iraq's announcement that it would comply with the resolution and its strong weapons inspection plan. But Mr. Annan welcomed the decision, and said U.N. weapons inspectors would return to Iraq next week.
"Today I received a letter from the Iraqi government accepting the resolution, saying they would work with the resolution. And Mr. Blix and his team will go back. We expect them to get there on the 18th and actively begin their work," Mr. Annan said.
Earlier in the day, before the Iraqi letter was made public, President Bush issued a warning to Baghdad. He spoke of a pattern of deception, denial and deceit and vowed Iraq will be disarmed peacefully or, if necessary, through force.
During a session with reporters, his spokesman picked up the theme and pointed to a pattern of broken promises from Iraq. Scott McClellan indicated there is now plenty of reason for skepticism.
"We have heard this before from Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime. Now we need to see it by Saddam Hussein's actions," he said.
Mr. McClellan noted that Saddam Hussein must meet a number of obligations that go beyond cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors. He made specific mention of the need for Baghdad to stop firing on U.S. and British planes monitoring the "no-fly zones" in northern and southern Iraq established after the Gulf War.