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US Still Skeptical About Iraq's Compliance With UN Resolution - 2002-11-21

President Bush's National Security Advisor says the White House remains deeply skeptical that Iraq will ever comply with U.N. demands to disarm. Condoleezza Rice made the remarks in Prague, where NATO leaders are wrapping up the summit meeting.

The summit in the Czech capital produced a joint statement endorsing the latest U.N. resolution on Iraq.

It calls on Iraq to comply "fully and immediately" and speaks of serious consequences if Baghdad does not.

The four-paragraph statement stops short of threatening collective military action. But White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says it is a powerful statement all the same.

"And what you saw in the NATO summit statement was an insistence by the world that Iraq disarm."

She says it is too early to even talk about possible military action. But under questioning from reporters in Prague, she acknowledged she does not think it likely Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will comply peacefully with the disarmament demands.

"We're deeply skeptical that this regime is ever going to fully live up to the U.N. Security council resolutions to which it signed," she said.

Ms. Rice says Iraq will have several opportunities in the coming weeks to cooperate fully with U.N. weapons inspectors. She says so far, though, the White House has not seen anything that indicates Iraq will, in fact, disarm.

"I want to be very clear," she said. "If Iraq tries to shift the burden of proof on the inspectors that would be a great mistake, because the burden of proof is on Saddam Hussein to show the world that he is not possessing programs for weapons of mass destruction, that he's destroyed everything we know that he has had and pursued, and that he doesn't ever intend to pursue them again."

The next big deadline for Iraq is December eighth, when Baghdad is required to turn over an inventory of its weapons of mass destruction.