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US Deputy Secretary of State Warns of Saddam's Intentions - 2003-01-21

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage warned Tuesday there is no sign that Saddam Hussein intends to comply with last November's U.N. disarmament resolution and that those who believe he will are engaged in "wishful thinking." Mr. Armitage's policy address came as the Bush administration issued a new document accusing Saddam Hussein of wide-ranging efforts to evade weapons inspections. In the first of what officials here say will be a series of policy speeches on Iraq, Mr. Armitage said the Bush administration wants to avoid conflict. But he added the world's options for peacefully dealing with Saddam Hussein are all but exhausted.

In an address to the U.S. Institute for Peace, Mr. Armitage said he understood the feelings of anti-war demonstrators and governments advocating more time for U.N. inspections, but he said there is "not one sign" that the regime in Baghdad intends to comply with Resolution 14-41 or its 16 predecessors:

"The point is, that if you are are hanging your hopes on Saddam Hussein's voluntary willingness to comply and the veracity of his regime, you're engaging in some very dangerous wishful thinking," he said. "We've seen this before. The partial results the inspectors say they have and what that means: inadequate disclosures, reluctant confessions, active evasion rather than active cooperation, no actual weapons destroyed. And then promises made in the face of danger, only to be abandoned when the pressure is off."

Mr. Armitage, a blunt-speaking former Pentagon official, said despite the buildup of U.S. forces in the Gulf, President Bush has not made a decision to go to war. He said the threat of conflict might yet force Saddam Hussein into a last-minute decision to disarm, but that given his past behavior, this seems highly unlikely.

"We must honestly face facts. If Iraq is disarming peacefully, showing active cooperation, then we can sit back and claim that our U.N. resolution is successful," he said. "If he is not disarming, then we must have the guts to draw that conclusion and take another course. It does none of us any good, to let Saddam think he can wear us down into business as usual as he has practiced it over the past 12 years."

Mr. Armitage said if it does come to war, it will not be a battle for the sake of battle, but to bring peace and stability to the region. He said the United States is already engaged in broad discussions with "free Iraqis" about a post-war Iraq that would be democratic and multi-ethnic, foreswear weapons of mass destruction and preserve the country's territorial integrity.

The Armitage address was accompanied by release of an administration document entitled Apparatus of Lies, charging that the Saddam Hussein government exploits Islam, and uses the suffering of its citizens, the result of its own policies, to try to win sympathy abroad.

It says Saddam Hussein, a non-religious man from the secular, even atheistic, Baath party, exploits Islamic sentiments by using faith-based statements in public speeches, even as his regime represses Muslim faithful, by, among other things preventing them from making the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The 32-page document also accuses the Baghdad government of ordering officials to lie, to craft forgeries and false news accounts, and to portray self-inflicted damage as the acts of its enemies.