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(en) Deep rifts opening in Iraq crisis: China, France, Russia warn US FWD

From Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>
Date Fri, 6 Feb 1998 02:54:39 -0800 (PST)



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FWD 5 Feb 1998 NBC News http://www.msnbc.com/news/138663.asp

DEEP RIFTS OPENING IN GULF COALITION
                     
China, France,
Russia warn
U.S. to avoid
hasty move

Deep rifts opened in the U.S.-led coalition
against Iraq on Thursday as Russia, China and France issued
strong statements against U.S. plans to bomb Iraq into
compliance with U.N. resolutions. Russian President Boris
Yeltsin vowed that he "won't allow" a U.S. military strike
against Iraq "under any circumstances.


NBC'S MOSCOW CORRESPONDENT Rob Reynolds said Yeltsin
pounded his desk as he said, "We should not allow a U.S. military strike
under any circumstances." Referring to a phone conversation with President
Bill Clinton this week, he said, "I told Clinton this: No, we won't allow it."
Yeltsin's comments, following remarks Wednesday when he warned
of a possible "world war," appeared to galvanize the opposition to a military
attack among important permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, who last week allowed that force
might be necessary as a last resort, said Thursday that the United States and
Britain would be alone if they were to launch a military strike against Iraq
anytime soon. "That is not just the French position, it is the position of all
Europeans as far as I can see, apart from the British. Obviously it is the
position of the Arab world, the Russians, the Chinese," Vedrine said.
China, too, expressed concern at the U.S. buildup of force in the
Gulf region.

Beijing's foreign minister, Qian Qichen, said, "China is extremely
and definitely opposed to the use of military force because its use will result
in a tremendous amount of human casualties and create more turmoil in the
 region and even could cause new conflicts."
                                        
ENFORCING CEASE-FIRE

The United States has consistently said that the terms of the Gulf war
cease-fire give it all the authority it needs to use military power to enforce
the cease-fire provisions. Iraq has been in breach of those terms since it
declared dozens of sites "off-limits" to United Nations weapons inspectors
empowered to search for and destroy any weapons of mass destruction.
Still, the dissent from former Gulf war allies was in stark contrast to
the picture being presented in Washington, where British Prime Minister
Tony Blair held talks with Clinton and lent his country's full support for
American leadership.

Interviewed on NBC's "Today" show, Blair told co-host
Matt Lauer that "the threat to world peace will be all the greater" if Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein is "allowed to get away" with flouting U.N.
resolutions following the Gulf war that require weapons inspections.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Clinton, too, tried to minimize
opposition, insisting the United States was
still giving diplomacy a chance to succeed.
Asked about the "world war"
comments, Clinton said, "I doubt that that
would happen," and emphasized that he
and Yeltsin would both rather avoid
military action if possible.
With Blair at his side, Clinton said
that both Russia and France, which
Thursday ruled out any assistance in a
U.S. strike, "share many of our
frustrations" with Iraq's actions.
The United States is
"trying to build what consensus we can,"
he added, but Iraq's potential for
biological warfare is a real threat that must
be contained.

That may prove to be an impossible
goal, however. Intelligence officials tell NBC News that they don't know
precisely where Saddam hides his biological weapons. In fact, even during
the Gulf war, the United States never knew the locations of the plants that
produced these weapons.

The situation could be more pressing than has been believed. NBC
News reports that the United States has learned only now that Iraq already
has loaded bombs and warheads with deadly toxins and moved them to
secret air bases in the desert. From there they can menace U.S. forces,
Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, just returned from a tour of
Arab countries aimed at building a consensus to back U.S. action, has
claimed there is broad support. But Arab leaders remain reluctant to express
that support - if it exists - in public.
                                        
IRAQ CRITICAL OF NEW AID PROPOSAL

Also on Thursday, Britain, Portugal and Sweden circulated a
resolution in the Security Council to increase the amount of oil Iraq can sell
to buy food and medicine for its 22 million people.
But Iraq rejected key elements of the proposal.
The resolution would implement a recommendation by
Secretary-General Kofi Annan to allow Iraq to sell $5.2 billion worth of oil
over six months.
Under the current ceiling, Iraq is limited to $2.14 billion worth of
exports. Most of the money goes to buy food and medicine for distribution
under U.N. monitoring. The rest goes to compensate victims of the 1991
Gulf war and pay expenses for U.N. weapons monitors in Iraq.
Annan's recommendation also provides for a one-time expenditure of
$1 billion to repair Iraqi infrastructure damaged by U.S. forces during the
Gulf conflict.
would begin discussions on the plan Monday.

But Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf rejected
several elements of the plan.
In a letter to Annan on Thursday, he said Iraq is not willing to pay
more for U.N. monitoring and is not willing to repair electric power stations
in northern Iraq, which is not fully under Baghdad's control. He said
repairs should be nationwide.
The government also opposes plans for U.N. humanitarian agencies
to target aid to vulnerable groups like children and the poor, saying Iraq -
not the United Nations - should be responsible for such aid.
                                        
U.S. BUILDUP CONTINUES

Despite the diplomacy, the buildup of U.S. power continues in
the Gulf. The USS Independence and its battle group arrived in the gulf
Thursday, joining two other U.S. aircraft carriers as well as the British
carrier Invincible.

The U.S. Defense Department said that it also has deployed an
amphibious landing ship with more than 2,000 U.S. Marines on board.
That ship, now in the Mediterranean, could be in the Gulf by early next
week.

To the north, reports continued of frenetic activity at the U.S. airbase
at Incirlik in southeastern Turkey.
Turkish officials have emphasized that the United States has not
asked to use the base in any action against Iraq. But U.S. and British planes
from the base regularly fly over northern Iraq from Incirlik to enforce a
no-fly zone aimed at protecting Iraq's Kurds. And U.S. aircraft based at
Incirlik launched frequent bombing strikes on Iraq during the 1991 Gulf
war.

In Washington, the U.S. House and Senate were drafting resolutions
of support for a military option.
"We have to adopt a position that he will either agree to unlimited
U.N. inspections or we will have to replace him with a regime that will
agree to end this kind of (weapons) program," House Speaker Newt
Gingrich told reporters Wednesday.

Clinton, however, did not want to go that far Thursday. Asked about
trying to overthrow Saddam, he told reporters: "Would the Iraqi people be
better off if there were a change in leadership? I certainly think they would
be, but that is not what the United Nations has authorized us to do."
As for the timing of any planned military move, that remains very
much up in the air. Aside from the Russians and the French, the United
States is coming under pressure from an unusual quarter - the International
Olympic Committee - to observe a truce during the winter games in
Nagano, Japan, from Feb. 7-22.

Billy Payne, head of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, said that
though he supports U.S. action on Iraq, he doesn't like the idea of
overshadowing the games' "friendship and cooperation."
"The Olympic movement is an affirmation of the peaceful purposes
of nations," Payne said.

U.S. officials tell NBC News they do consider the issue a real one
and may hold off until after the games as long as it does not appear to give
Iraq any further advantage.
Presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said the White House has
"acknowledged the importance of the Olympic tradition" but that Iraq and
Saddam "should not breathe easily" during the games.
                                        
[NBC's Rob Reynolds, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, The Associated
Press and Reuter contributed to this report.]

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