08/06/1998 19:50:26 U.S. demands Iraq comply with U.N. inspectors
(Recasts, updates throughout)
By Laurence McQuillan
WASHINGTON, Aug 6 (Reuters) - The White House vowed on
Thursday to "keep the pressure on" Iraq to end its defiance of
U.N. arms inspectors and insisted President Clinton's unfolding
problems with a sex scandal will not weaken U.S. resolve.
The latest round of tensions in the cat-and-mouse game
between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the U.N. Security
Council flared on Wednesday when Iraq abruptly announced it was
suspending cooperation with the U.N. Special Commission that
conducts arms inspections.
Baghdad insists the commission be "reformed" to eliminate
an American influence it blames for prolonging the disarmament
process and sanctions.
At the White House, spokesman P.J. Crowley said Iraq's
"noncompliance is completely unacceptable ... We will not allow
Iraq access to resources necessary to restart their weapons of
mass destruction program."
"We will continue to keep the pressure on until Iraq
complies fully with their obligations," Crowley told
State Department spokesman James Foley echoed the U.S.
resolve, saying Saddam "has never succeeded in escaping the
containment that we've successfully maintained and that is not
going to change in the current circumstances either."
Some diplomats and analysts have speculated that the timing
of Saddam's latest actions may be linked in part to the
problems Clinton faces at home in a probe of his relationship
with ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Lewinsky testified Thursday before a federal grand jury
examining whether Clinton lied under oath about having a sexual
relationship with her and then tried to pressure her into
lying. Clinton, who has adamantly denied the allegations,
testifies on August 17.
Some speculate that Saddam might be calculating that
Clinton's embroilment in the Lewinsky scandal may weaken his
resolve or his political authority to use military force in the
During a similar crisis in February, when Iraq expelled
U.S. members of the U.N. inspection team, Clinton threatened to
order air strikes against Iraqi military targets and sent a
large naval force to the Gulf region.
That test of wills came just weeks after the uproar over
Lewinsky began in January, generating predictions among some
political pundits that the Clinton presidency was in danger.
White House spokesman Crowley denied that the Lewinsky
matter has any impact in shaping U.S. policy decisions. "This
is not something that's driven by current events," he said.
"We've been at this for eight years," he said. "This is ...
driven by Saddam and his totally unsuccessful attempt over the
years to evade his international responsibilities."
At the Defense Department, spokesman Ken Bacon said there
were no current plans to increase the size of U.S. forces in
the Gulf, which currently include the aircraft carrier Abraham
Lincoln and 167 warplanes in the region.
"I don't think we are at crisis stage yet," Bacon told
He pointed out, however, that the United States has doubled
its number of highly accurate sea-launched Tomahawk cruise
missiles in the Gulf since the spring and could move additional
air power there within 48 hours.
Butler's talks in Baghdad broke down earlier in the week
when he refused to comply with a demand by Iraqi Deputy Prime
Minister Tareq Aziz that he declare that all Iraq's weapons of
mass destruction had been accounted for.
This would have opened the way for the Security Council to
end sanctions, including a ban on oil sales, imposed on Iraq
since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent U.S.-led
military campaign to expel its troops.