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Western Press Review: Inspectors Back In Iraq Face Formidable Tasks


By Don Hill and Aurora Gallego



Prague, 26 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State William S. Cohen invokes what he calls "the age of terror weapons" in a special commentary published today by The Washington Post. His is among a number of commentaries and analyses in the Western press on the Iraq-UNSCOM crisis.

WASHINGTON POST: "In a shrinking world of advancing technology and increasingly porous borders, the ability to unleash mass destruction and death is spreading

Cohen writes: "Saddam Hussein's latest gambit to conceal his chemical and biological weapons programs by expelling the United Nation inspectors highlights the grave threat these weapons of mass destruction pose to the international community. This threat of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons is not limited to Iraq -- and the front line could just as easily be Washington or New York as in the Middle East or the Korean peninsula."

The U.S. official writes: "Iraq's extensive use of chemical weapons against Iran and its own people a decade ago should have seared into our consciousness the image of a mother with child in her arms, their bodies blistered from Saddam's mustard gas, sprawled in the streets of an Iraqi city -- Madonna and Child, Saddam style."

Cohen concludes: "In a shrinking world of advancing technology and increasingly porous borders, the ability to unleash mass destruction and death is spreading. A report I released yesterday, Proliferation: Threat and Response, details the dangers we face, as well as our comprehensive effort to keep apace of these evolving challenges. The immediate crisis in Iraq is yet to be resolved. But when it is, through whatever means, it will be but the end of the beginning of a long-term global battle in which we can afford neither to retreat nor to relax."

NEW YORK TIMES: Iran, Iraq and Libya also have biological and chemical weapons programs

In The New York Times today, staff writer Tim Weiner analyzes the report to which Cohen refers. Weiner contends that other Mideast regimes parallel -- perhaps because they are incited by -- Iraq's concentration on terror weapons. Weiner says: "Iran renewed its efforts to build nuclear weapons when it learned that its rival, Iraq, had a well-advanced program under way before the Persian Gulf War, the report said. Iran also has biological and chemical weapons programs. Libya has a mismanaged and perhaps moribund nuclear weapons program, but also is building a huge underground chemical-weapons factory. Syria is vigorously developing chemical weapons and ballistic missiles, which it believes will serve as deterrents against Israeli attacks."

LE FIGARO: The Russians made a comeback in the region by cynically playing the part of the outsider

Charles Lambroschini, writing recently in the French newspaper Le Figaro, commented that the compromise between Iraq and the UN reflects a revival of Russian diplomacy. "Again, Moscow seems to have decided to be heard all over the world." he says. The writer says that in brokering a return to Iraq by UN inspectors, "(Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny) Primakov was an instrument of a serious strategy. The Russians made a comeback in the region by cynically playing the part of the outsider."

Lambroschini writes, "We are back in times like those when the czars and Victorian England were in opposition on the border between India and Afghanistan. The Russians fear that the dormant American could become uncontrollable once again."

He says: "Luckily for the West, Russia, finally a democratic country, has chosen to be realistic. Russia no longer is driven by ideology but by the desire to attract investors. It no is inspired by expansionism, but by the will to be accepted in the concert of the civilized nations."

Two commentators in the Suddeutsche Zeitung today examine the UNSCOM team's work and reach differing conclusions.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Are they sneaking away something lethal, or merely rubbing the inspectors' noses in the fact of their powerlessness?

Hans Leyendecker says that Iraqi interference is continually nerve wracking for the inspectors. He writes: "Although the Iraqis insist that the inspectors face no obstacles in their duties, there are times when it seems that the most important skill of these scientists and technical experts is the sustained ability to maintain a steady nerve. For six years, they have been responsible for registering and destroying all Iraqi rockets with a range of more than 150 kilometers, as well as materials and equipment that could be used to produce nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. They also supervise what weapons production is still permitted."

Leyendecker says: "The pending arrival of the UN inspectors has an uncanny way of signaling to truck convoys around Iraq that it is time to move, yet reconnaissance satellites and the UN's own aircraft are often unable to track them. Are they sneaking away something lethal, or merely rubbing the inspectors' noses in the fact of their powerlessness?"

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Saddam Hussein who emerged from the Mother of all Battles as the father of all defeats, is not only a bad loser but also a pretty dumb one

Kurt Kister says that the real barriers to effective inspection lie ahead. He writes: "The inspectors of the United Nations Special Commission for Iraq declared themselves yesterday to be satisfied. They said they had had no problems with their work. One reason is certain to be that they did not try to visit any sensitive installations. This is the term which was entwined around the latest dispute between Saddam Hussein and the United Nations. As usual, it was the despot of Baghdad who picked the fight. It does not seem to sink into his great skull that all these machinations, every new confrontation, merely serve to delay the lifting of the UN embargo."

Kister says: "Saddam Hussein who emerged from the Mother of all Battles as the father of all defeats, is not only a bad loser but also a pretty dumb one."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Washington must keep the focus on the inspections and not on the less supportable and more elusive hope of toppling the regime

A former U.S. under secretary of state, now a professor at the University of Virginia, David D. Newsom, comments in today's issue of The Christian Science Monitor, that one reason the United States has failed to gain more support for its Iraq policy is that its objectives are unclear. Officially the United States wishes only to disarm Saddam. But some U.S. government elements seem to be arguing for his overthrow, Newsom says. He writes: "The U.S. show of force in the Gulf has without doubt been an indispensable corollary to Russia's diplomatic efforts. To this point, it has not been necessary to use that force. The appropriate objective of getting the inspectors back to work appears to have been achieved.

"Nevertheless, pressures from Russia, France, and others to accelerate the inspection and end sanctions can be expected. The United States will insist on proof that weapons have been eliminated and mechanisms to prevent further development have been created. To keep allies and to remain credible in this effort, however, Washington must keep the focus on the inspections and not on the less supportable and more elusive hope of toppling the regime."
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