A Developing Standoff With Iraq

The United States and Britain agreed on Tuesday that force could be used to punish Iraq for its refusal to cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors as Baghdad reaffirmed its defiance.

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen's crisis mission to rally European and Gulf allies against Iraq began in London with an hour of talks with his British counterpart, George Robertson.

Cohen and Robertson agreed that Saddam must reverse Baghdad's weekend decision to suspend cooperation with the U.N. inspectors sent to search for banned chemical and biological weapons, or face the wrath of the international community.

"[They] agreed that all options remained on the table, including the use of force if required, to get Saddam Hussein to submit to the will of the United Nations," said a statement, issued by the British Ministry of Defense after the talks.

But Iraq remained obdurate. "We will not back down on the decision whatever the sacrifices would be," the official al-Iraq newspaper said in a front-page editorial on Tuesday.

The decision to send Cohen to meet with U.S. allies in Europe and the Gulf was made at a meeting on Monday of the president and his top foreign policy advisers, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

After spending an hour with Madeleine Albright and other officials, President Clinton said Iraq's announced decision to stop cooperating with U.N. arms inspectors will backfire. He said "no options are off the table" for a possible response.

"Saddam Hussein's latest refusal to cooperate with the international weapons inspectors is completely unacceptable," he said.

The monitoring cameras are still rolling in Iraq, but UNSCOM chief Richard Butler told CBS News his weapons inspectors are not able to do anything.

"They're doing housekeeping," he said. "They've got a lot of paper work and reports to write and so on. But they're not going out into the field."

Last August, Iraq barred the weapons inspectors from carrying out new inspections in search of hidden weapons. Now the Iraqis say the inspectors can't even go back to places they've already visited in order to make sure nothing has changed.

"They've now taken it further into stopping our long-term monitoring, and, of course, that's the future," Butler said. "When disarmament is finished, we're supposed to be able to stick around and make sure they don't make those weapons again. So this is across the board, and it's serious."

Administration officials believe it will take a credible threat of air strikes to get the inspectors back on the job, but the Pentagon is not likely to start building up its forces until after Cohen has found out if the allies will go along.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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