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Iraq: U.S. Unveils New Evidence Of Repression

  • Lisa McAdams

The United States says Iraq, under President Saddam Hussein, continues to repress its people, threaten the region, and obstruct international efforts to provide humanitarian relief. This, according to what the State Department called new evidence in the form of a special report released to journalists on Monday. RFE/RL Correspondent Lisa McAdams was at the report's unveiling and filed this report:

Washington, 14 September 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has offered what it called "new evidence" of the Iraqi regime's ongoing repression of its people.

Our correspondent reports the evidence came in the form of a special report released to journalists Monday at the State Department in Washington. The report, unveiled by Spokesman James Rubin and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Martin Indyk, includes recently de-classified imagery of destruction in and around Kirkuk, Iraq and in the southern marshes area.

In noting the highlights, Rubin said that the government in Baghdad continues to obstruct international efforts to provide humanitarian relief and remains a threat to the region overall.

Rubin said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's priorities are clear. He said if given control of Iraq's resources, Hussein would use them to re-arm and threaten the region, not to improve the well-being of the Iraqi people.

Rubin said it was also clear Hussein was chiefly responsible for the current suffering of the Iraqi populace. And he detailed several incidents in which he said Iraqi leaders chose to enrich themselves, as he put it, rather than spend money to help the people.

Rubin said: "Despite its claims that the people of Iraq are dying due to the lack of food and medicine, Saddam Hussein does not hesitate to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for the entertainment of Ba'ath party officials and cadres."

Rubin said Hussein built a resort complex for regime loyalists earlier this year, as well as a sprawling lakeside resort complex containing stadiums, an amusement park, hospitals, and parks.

Rubin said the international community -- not Saddam Hussein -- is caring for the Iraqi people. Rubin concluded his remarks by characterizing Saddam Hussein as "the man who decides everything in Iraq."

Assistant Secretary Indyk characterized Hussein as more often on the offensive than on the defensive of late. He said the regime in Baghdad, in the United States' view, is getting weaker and more isolated and that Hussein's base of support is dwindling.

At the same time, Indyk said there was cause for "significant concern," regarding the newly uncovered evidence released in Monday's report. As such, he said the United States is watching events on the ground as closely as it can, without benefit of on-site (UNSCOM) weapons inspection monitors.

Indyk said efforts were under way to facilitate the monitor's return. Barring that, he said the U.S. position remains the same.

Indyk said: "We are watching Saddam Hussein's activities as closely as we can with national means, given the fact that the international community does not have inspectors on the ground. And we have made it clear in our declaratory policy that, should we find evidence of a reconstitution of weapons of mass destruction or a deployment of weapons of mass destruction that he may well still have, then that will constitute a crossing of our red lines and we will use force to take care of that problem definitively."

He added: "It is our hope we can achieve consensus on putting (UNSCOM weapons) inspectors back in, and (consensus) on a number of other issues. But in the absence of doing that, we are doing what we can to monitor events and should they (the Iraqi leadership) reconstitute or re-deploy weapons of mass destruction, we will use force."

Indyk said at the time UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq nearly nine years ago, after Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait, it was hoped Hussein would comply. Indyk said that has not happened and that, in his words, Hussein remains in "flagrant violation of the sanctions." He said the United States would continue to explore ways in which to lift the sanctions off, what he called, "the backs of the Iraqi people." The burden should be borne, Indyk said, by the Iraqi leadership.

The new information contained in Monday's report was released as the UN Security Council in New York continues to struggle over what to do about Iraq, which remains under UN sanctions and subject to frequent U.S. air strikes.

U.S. and allied air patrols over Iraq were begun after the 1991 Gulf War to prevent Saddam's forces using air power against local dissidents.

A current draft resolution by Britain and the Netherlands would suspend Iraqi sanctions on exports, such as oil, if Baghdad complied with key disarmament demands. Indyk said the resolution is expected to get a full hearing during the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York.

In the meantime, Indyk and Rubin both reiterated the United States' view that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, remains "dangerous, unreconstructed and defiant."