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Rice Tells VOA French Plan Avoids 'Real Disarmament' - 2003-02-25

The White House says a French plan to extend U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq would only help Saddam Hussein avoid real disarmament.

White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said the French, German and Russian plan to continue inspections would help the Iraqi leader further divide the Security Council and hide illegal weapons.

"Offering more time at this point really only plays into Saddam's hands," Ms. Rice said.

In an interview with VOA, Ms. Rice said she is not questioning the motives of the countries backing more inspections but believes their plan would help the Iraqi leader continue to defy more than a decade of U.N. resolutions demanding that he disarm.

"To say that there needs to be more time now or more inspections is simply going to get us back into the same kind of game that we have been in with Saddam Hussein for that 12 years. He has successfully held off disarmament. He has successfully split the council," Ms. Rice said.

Ms. Rice said the Security Council should not allow itself to be split over Iraq and should instead come together behind a new U.S., British and Spanish-backed resolution declaring Iraq in violation of U.N. demands and warning of serious consequences if it fails to comply.

"It's extremely important that the world stand with one voice, [and] say to Saddam Hussein, "You were given a final opportunity to disarm and it is time to do that or to face the consequences," Ms. Rice said.

France and Germany say there is no need for a new U.N. resolution and that the Security Council's priority should be disarming Iraq peacefully.

Iraq said it has no illegal weapons and believes President Bush is determined to attack the country regardless of what the Security Council decides.

Ms. Rice said the Bush Administration is always hopeful that Iraq will disarm, but, at this point, she said it is hard to imagine that Saddam Hussein will comply.

Instead, she expects the Iraqi leader will return to what she calls "game-playing" to keep the inspection process going and avoid giving up suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

"He'll start trying to show a little bit of cooperation, a little bit of progress. Perhaps he will bring out this weapon that he destroys or that weapon that he destroys, because now that he is under tremendous pressure, he has a lot of incentive to again get back into this game. But the world should not be fooled. We need total and complete disarmament," she said.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has given Iraq until Saturday to begin destroying missiles whose range exceeds U.N. limits. He says Iraq has shown new signs of substantive cooperation in recent days, including documents concerning the disposal of some banned weapons in 1991. Mr. Blix described the new disclosures as "positive" and said they would have to be followed up further.